Competition is a key element in science and research, both for researchers and for research institutions. Recent years have seen competition in Europe take on new forms and a new quality – in Germany this has occurred especially in connection with the establishment of the European Research Area and the so-called Excellence Initiative, as well as its successor, the Excellence Strategy. This is why rankings have experienced a boom in Germany in recent years.
More and more attempts have been undertaken to rank excellence on the basis of new criteria and methodologies. Within the world of research, however, there has also been severe criticism of both the methodology and practical use of rankings.
Methodological criticism focuses, for example, on the quality and weighting of indicators or the overemphasis of research to the disadvantage of teaching. In terms of practical use, the allocation of institutional funding on the basis of such indicators has been criticised. These criticisms, in turn, have given rise to new approaches to performance evaluation, such as the European ranking system U-Multirank, which represents a new multidimensional approach to the international ranking of higher education institutions.
In the meantime there are many higher education rankings that work on the basis of different criteria and standards. That is why one international non-profit organisation, IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, has compiled an online inventory that enables users to find and assess different rankings.
Below you will find a selection of important German and international university rankings.