14 September 2023

THE Masterclass Webinar “Internationalisation and Reputation”: Unlocking Your Institutions for Global Collaborations

Ninnart Ratanasukhon
AUN Programme Officer;

Internationalisation and reputation are some of the key metrics in Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. As mentioned in the first THE Masterclass Webinar “Ranking 101;” THE World University Rankings are made up of five pillars: Teaching, Research Environment, Research Quality, International Outlook, and Industry. In the 2nd webinar of this THE Masterclass Webinar series on 11 September 2023, Mei Mei Lim, Director of Consultancy, dived into how AUN Members and AUN-QA Associate Members can drive their performance in Teaching, Research Environment, and International Outlook through reputation and internationalisation

Drawing back to the first webinar “Ranking 101,” THE collected ‘Reputation Data’ through a  reputation survey which is sent out each year to published academics across the world. Academics are asked to nominate 15 universities they think are the best in teaching and research. Academics are also asked for 15 universities they think produce the best research in their respective subject area.

This reputation survey constitutes up to 15% of Teaching performance and 18% of Research Environment performance, the highest among the five metrics of Teaching performance and three metrics of Research Environment performance.

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Ms. Lim revealed to us a statistic that this reputation voting can make a difference in the ranking results of universities in THE World University Ranking, and Asian universities are now on their way up reputation-wise between 2019 and 2023.

When looking at the factors behind how Asian and North American academics cast their votes in the reputation survey, the statistics showed that:

  • Asian academics tend to pay more attention to the quality of journals that the universities have published in, the real-world impact of the universities’ research, citation metrics, and the universities’ output than their North American counterparts.
  • Meanwhile, North American academics tend to pay more attention to personal interaction and word-of-mouth recommendations than their Asian counterparts.

Ms. Lim pointed out that this could be the area of target for universities in improving their reputation data for THE World University Ranking. She also presented a case study of Malaysian Universities which have been gaining more reputation.

The statistics showed that 71% of Malaysian universities were voted by Malaysian academics, followed by Indonesian, Japanese, Nigerian, Indian, and Pakistani. This implied that Malaysian universities had larger reputations in Asia, and therefore, the Asia Pacific region can be an area of opportunity for Malaysian universities to build their reputations. Ms. Lim also pointed out that this trend is not uncommon among other Asian universities.

When taking a deeper look into the countries whose academics voted for Malaysia, it became evident that countries with academics co-authoring research with Malaysian universities had a higher tendency to vote for Malaysian universities in terms of reputation. Though not every country that has co-authored research with Malaysian universities voted for them in the reputation survey, the general trend revealed that international collaboration and reputation tend to go hand-in-hand with one another.

Therefore, it is essential that universities identify potential partners for international collaborations. Ms. Lim recommended universities to conduct an Academic Network Analysis to locate potential partners that are specialists in the areas of strength of each university.

Ms. Lim also listed out some opportunities that universities can capitalise in forging new international collaborations; with physical meetings such as in-person visits, informal face-to-face networking among researchers, and in-person conferences as some of the most ‘successful’ ways of forging new collaboration opportunities. However, Ms. Lim emphasised that online interactions, such as online conferences and social media campaigns, still serve as a valuable opportunity for universities to strengthen ties with one another, and universities should utilise both for the maximum benefit.

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Another element that Times Higher Education measures in the World University Ranking is the number of ‘international students’ and ‘international staff.’ This is where Ms. Lim highlighted the importance of ‘branding.’

Branding is not the same as reputation. ‘Reputation’ is how others perceive the university, while ‘branding’ is how a university presents itself to the world.

When it comes to branding, universities’ websites and social media can play an important role in providing prospective students and researchers an idea of what they can achieve at each university.

Times Higher Education’s survey found that university websites still served as the main portal for students and researchers to look up their academic destination, followed by rankings and social media. Therefore, universities are recommended to monitor their online platforms, identify which platforms are the most common for people to visit when looking up information about their institute, and tailor their communication accordingly.

Ms. Lim also provided us with some insights into what students and researchers look for in a university website. According to Times Higher Education’s interviews, students and researchers prefer websites that are informative and easy to navigate with useful headings and a dedicated section for international students. Information such as a list of partners and links to industry, availability of classes taught in English, and case studies of alumni careers are some of what prospective students like to see on university websites. Other features that students look for include acceptance rate, alumni career, scholarship, and tuition fee details.

In her conclusion, Ms. Lim provided the audiences with some overview of a holistic branding and reputation strategy for universities to optimise:

  1. Targeted campaigns in specific regions and subjects
  2. Hosting international academic and higher education events
  3. Incentivising academic research and teaching exchanges
  4. Increasing the number of foreign faculty and international students
  5. Producing more thought leadership in global higher education media

She emphasised that reputation building is a process that takes time and effort to bear fruit. However, she wanted to encourage universities to start working on building their reputation over time, so they will see the fruits of their hard work in years to come.

Apart from reputation data, THE also utilised ‘performance data,’ submitted by universities, in determining the rankings. This data includes student numbers, academic and research staff numbers, international staff and students, degrees awarded, and income data.

To ensure smooth participation in the ranking, Times Higher Education, together with the AUN Secretariat, has prepared a webinar masterclass that will provide AUN Member Universities and AUN-QA Associate Member Universities with a comprehensive guide and best practice for Data Management and Submission.

The webinar is set to take place on Wednesday, 4 October 2023, from 13:00 (GMT+7) or 14:00 (GMT+8). Learn more about the webinar at: Times Higher Education: Empowering Higher Education Worldwide or register now at: Times Higher Education Masterclass: Data Management and Submission.