The ranking mechanism for sectoral universities should be updated

21 december 2018

The ranking mechanism for universities specializing in specific sectors of the economy should be updated. As concluded the participants of the round table "Effectiveness of the financial activity of universities under the conditions of per-capita financing of higher education", which was held at the Analytical Center.

Opening the round table, Inna Karakchieva, Senior Adviser of the Department for Social Policy of the Analytical Center, said that sectoral universities make up a fourth of all the higher education organizations in the countries and teach a total of over 4 million students. Sectoral universities are educational institutions supported by the Ministries of sport, culture, agriculture, healthcare and transport. The amount of state funding of the universities depends on the sectors, the location and the form of education they offer. The same standard estimating the cost of educating a single student is used to determine the amount of funding.

"The basic cost estimate was introduced as an efficiency management tool," Ms. Karakchieva explained. "The same financing principle is supposed to ensure objectivity, transparency and high quality of financial management. The basic cost estimates, financial and economic mechanisms are directly linked to how universities get ranked. Therefore, we often assess the efficiency of a university based on its ranking. And what we can see here is that universities essentially refocus their efforts on boosting their ranking, and therefore, the ranking stops making sense."

According to Ms. Karakchieva, as part of the instruction to assess the effectiveness of sectoral and territorial coefficients for ensuring the financial operations of universities, the experts analyzed 120 educational facilities. The findings of a similar study from 2014 were used for comparison.

The analysis found that the parameters used in ranking universities do not correlate with the level of pay that tutors and professors get except for one indicator, which is the number of students per tutor. It turned out that the highest pay is offered by universities that are ranked very low on efficiency rather than the other way around.

"In medical universities, there is no link between pay and efficiency, the salary only depends on how many students a tutor teaches and how much he/she is occupied with the university work. In agricultural universities, the key factor that determines the pay of tutors and professors is their involvement in research and development," said Natalia Tipenko, CEO of the Center for Universal Programs.

The expert went on to add that in the past 4 years some of the indicators have changed by several orders of magnitude and that kind of change can't have happened organically. In her opinion, this may suggest that the universities have started paying more attention to gathering and reporting the statistical data meeting the requirements of the Ministry of Education.

"Sectoral universities play an important role in the higher education system and they depend a great deal on state orders. However, today, financing of the system of sectoral higher education is essentially a process-based mechanism based on linear criteria and we need a transition to a project based system in which the quality of universities gets assessed based on the results they deliver. So if the ranking methodology is to help update the system of higher education, then it must be modified and respond to objective changes taking place at the university," Ms. Karakchieva summed up.