Why university rankings must include academic freedom

Posted March 11, 2021

A piece co-authored by SAR Executive Director Robert Quinn for University World News.

Imagine you are a first-year student starting at one of the world’s top universities. Picture the lecture hall – as it was before the pandemic shifted classes online – well-worn from the generations that came before, or perhaps shiny and new, representing the promise of higher education in a dynamic, forward-looking society.

The professor begins the lecture, but every other sentence is muted. Every other slide on the screen is blank. Every other paragraph in the assigned text is blacked out.

That is effectively what it’s like at some of the most highly ranked institutions in the world, operating in environments where intellectual and creative freedoms are severely restricted. Where professors and students risk sacking, expulsion or worse for discussing topics that are not in favour or for asking certain questions.

You wouldn’t know it from looking at the latest world university rankings. Because neither the QS rankings, Times Higher Education, nor the Academic Ranking of World Universities (aka Shanghai) – the three most viewed rankings – nor any other major ranking, acknowledges the central role of academic freedom in top quality teaching and research.

Read more here.

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