20 nov 2008 - 14:00
University Rankings: From curse to blessing?

The evaluation and ranking of our universities and their departments is there to stay. Should we oppose them, denounce them, sabotage them as much as we can? Or can and should we use them, refashion them, expand them, in such a way that our universities end up fulfilling their various functions better than before, without worsening our lives or those of our students in the process?


(click here to download programme)

Part 1: 14.00 - 15.45

  • Welcome and Introduction
    by Erik DEKEULENEER (executive director of the University Foundation)
    Philippe VAN PARIJS (coordinator of the Ethical Forum)
  • Good intentions, perverse effects? Perverse intentions, good effects?
    • Ben SOWTER (Head of Research at Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), London) explained how QS produces the rankings published annually by the Times Higher Educational Supplement, what he regards as the main problems faced by the methodology used, and how he sees the future of university rankings.
    • Richard YELLAND (Head of the Unit Education Management and Infrastructure Division, Directorate for Education, OECD, Paris) presented and discussed the OECD's position on the role of rankings and other forms of external evaluation in the emerging global market for higher education.
    • Patrick LOOBUYCK (professor of philosophy at the Universiteit Gent and the Universiteit Antwerpen, co-author of Welke universiteit willen we (niet)?) echoed the concerns of young academics about the impact of rankings and related methods on university life
    • Short prepared interventions by members of Belgian universities reacting to the question "Are university rankings a good thing? A bad thing? Why?".

Part 2: 16.15 - 18.00

  • Which way forward?
    Benoit FRYDMAN (director of the Centre de philosophie du droit, Université libre de Bruxelles) summed up the challenges emerging from the first part of the forum and other reactions to the theme
  • The general discussion was introduced by
    • Peter VAN DER HIJDEN (European Commission, DG Education and Culture)
    • Bernard RENTIER (Rector of the University of Liège),
    • Frank VANDENBROUCKE (Education Minister, Flemish government)
  • Concluding remarks
    Philippe VAN PARIJS, professor of economic and social ethics at the Université catholique de Louvain and visiting professor of philosophy at Harvard University. (document)

Reception: 18.00