In the recent posting of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2015, DLSU slid down from the 651-700 bracket last year to the 701+ bracket this year.
Meanwhile, DLSU now falls under the 181-190 bracket of the QS Asian University Rankings 2015, after being in the 151-160 bracket for the past two years.
Behind the QS rankings
The QS, established in 1990, considers itself as “the leading global provider of specialist higher education and careers information and solutions.” Today, it works with over 2,000 higher education institutions and 12,000 employers all over the world. Its basic framework remains unchanged since 2005, but QS ensures that they are always open for refinements.
In recent years, DLSU has declined steadily in the rankings, mostly due to its lack of participation in the evaluation process. DLSU has decided not to pay the fees required for it to be evaluated by QS, a move that partially explains the steady decline and low scores of DLSU in the rankings. Among these fees include a $9850 audit fee valid for three years, and an annual license fee of $6850.
It is not only QS which requires certain fees for the evaluation of an institution. Other accrediting bodies include the ASEAN University Network Quality Assurance (AUN-QA), Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU), and more specific ones such as the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET), and Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). DLSU has previously undergone assessment under all these accrediting bodies.
Academic-related methodological issues
According to a study conducted by the University Research Coordination Office (URCO) Director Dr. Feorillo Petronilo A. Demeterio III and Mr. Joshua Mariz B. Felicilda of the University of Santo Tomas, a university’s academic reputation in the international community increases through its research programs. Among these include research publications, international conferences, and collaborative research studies with foreign universities.
In the QS Asian University Rankings 2014, the leading university in the Philippines in terms of the number of research publications is the University of the Philippines-Diliman, with over 2,606 publications. This is still far from neighboring countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, whose top universities produced a total of 3,681 and 47,579 research publications, respectively.
The main issue in terms of measuring academic reputation, however, is that the QS only uses a global survey that gathers the perception of academicians worldwide, rather than actually measuring universities’ research capabilities. The global survey for 2015, which comprises 40 percent of the overall score, had over 76,800 respondents.
Citations per faculty, another academic-related criterion of the rankings, comprises only 20 percent of the overall score. This criterion measures the number of research citations faculty members get through Scopus, the world’s largest database of research abstracts and citations.
Like academic reputation, QS also uses a global survey to measure employer reputation. This survey asks employers to identify universities they believe to be producing the best graduates. According to the URCO’s study, however, measuring the quality of graduates should also depend on how effective a university’s research programs are.
What DLSU can learn from the rankings
Despite DLSU’s lack of participation and some methodological issues in the evaluation process, the University can still learn from the QS rankings especially in terms of enhancing its research capabilities.
The QS rankings are based on the following criteria: academic reputation (40 percent), employer reputation (10 percent), student-to-faculty ratio (20 percent), citations per faculty (20 percent), international faculty ratio (5 percent), and international student ratio (5 percent).
Although DLSU is one of the top universities in the Philippines, in terms of academic reputation, it is still lacking compared to international universities. As a university in a third world country, the technology, information, and opportunities needed to progress are difficult to come by.
To improve the reputation of the University, Dr. Demeterio and Felicilda recommend increasing collaborative efforts with other universities. By attending international conferences and participating in research studies, both professors and students can collaborate with others and improve the standing of the DLSU.
The QS also considers employer reputation. The abilities and competencies of graduates highly rely on the professors and facilities of the university, but limited resources and opportunities have restricted the competitive edge of Lasallian graduates. Broadening the opportunities available for students and faculty will allow the University to produce better graduates who can attract more employers.
For student-faculty ratio, only full time professors are taken into consideration. However, limited funds make it difficult for the DLSU to hire more full-time professors. In the study, Dr. Demeterio and Felicilda suggest decreasing the amount of time required for full-time professors so that certain professors can be considered as full-time faculty members, thus increasing the student-faculty ratio.
Lastly, DLSU falls behind its peers with regard to its international faculty ratio. To attract professors, Dr. Demeterio and Felicilda suggest inviting them to participate in collaborative research studies and giving them an opportunity to teach a few courses. On its part, DLSU has been inviting professors from universities abroad to deliver lectures and talks on campus. Sometimes, professors abroad also inquire about visiting professorships.
Dr. Sam Pack from Kenyon College in Ohio, USA was a visiting professor in DLSU who taught an undergraduate course in Anthropology in 2013. “I deliberately came to [DLSU] because it ranks as one of the top universities in the country,” he shares.
However, it is noticeably difficult for DLSU to compete with large international universities that are capable of providing professors with large salaries and several benefits. According to Dr. Pack, “In my estimation, DLSU will face difficulty recruiting top faculty from the US and Europe because of the low salary, high teaching load, and general lack of resources.”
There are many points of improvement for DLSU. However, improving the research opportunities and collaborations for both the faculty and students should help DLSU’s standings in the next QS
University World Rankings.