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The Gachon Herald
University Evaluation, for whom?Limits, problems, and the future directions of University Evaluation
YANG jiyeon  |  gooooodj@naver.com
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Updated : 2012.12.06  17:32:26
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 Which university is the best in the world or in Korea? We might give the same answer without any hesitation. It is because it works like a formula with us, and that is the result of the University Evaluation. Universities in Korea have been evaluated regularly based on various indexes by the evaluation institutions, domestic and foreign. These evaluations result in a chart, and the ranking registers in our memory. 
  In Korea, the word “competition” first appeared in the university community in the early 1990’s. Original Evaluation of University that was first introduced in 1980’s, and its purposes were developing the capability of studying for professors and raising the quality of university education. But the evaluation of universities turned into a competition of ranking since the Ministry of Education, Press and Learning Society started to evaluate autonomously in the mid 90’s. As a result, the Evaluation of University lost its original purpose.


Current state of Evaluation of Universities domestically and internationally
  Currently, frequently mentioned University Evaluations are the ones by Joongang Ilbo as well as the Asian University Evaluation by Chosun Ilbo-QS and the World University Evaluation by The Times-Thomson Reuter. Evaluation by Joongang Ilbo was launched by Joongang Ilbo Education Development Research Institute in 1994. Asian University Evaluation by Chosun Ilbo-QS started in 2009 after Chosun Ilbo cooperated with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds), on the evaluation of institutions of higher education. The World University Evaluation by The Times-Thomson Reuter started in 2010 when the Times cooperated with the Thomson Reuter database management of international scholarships. Also The Kyunghyang Shinmun’s Sustainability Index of Universities was formed in 2010 and the Evaluation of Jiao Tong in Shanghai and Evaluation of Taiwan are now in force for international evaluation. All these University evaluations eventually shaped the ranking on a chart, despite the various evaluation indexes. Universities have lost their original purpose of the Evaluation and now rely more and more on the results, since University’s ranking has more influence on college prep students and parents. Currently, the Ministry of Education has been choosing universities with poor results and has put limitations on student loans and bankrolls. As a result, University competition has become fiercer.

Evaluation basis and indexes in each evaluation institution

Joongang Ilbo Conditions of education (32%) 13 indexes in total, including number of students per professor, rate of scholarship per tuition, rate of professor hire, rate of accommoda tion in dormitory, educational expenses per student, rate of donation of educational expenses, etc.
Professor research (31%) 8 indexes in total, including research funds and the number of publications, etc.
Reputation/Employment (20%) 8 indexes in total, including survey results from domestic companies and people in education and artistic circles, and employment rate index.
Internationalization (17%) 5 indexes in total, including rate of international professors, rate of international students who registered for a degree course, rate of exchange students to overseas, rate of international exchange students, rate of English classes, etc.
Chosun Ilbo-QS Research capacity (60%) 3 indexes including evaluation of academia and the number of theses per faculty, impact factor per publication.
Education level (20%) Rate of students per faculty (with some specific details).
Reputation of graduates (10%) Survey results from human resources departments of companies domestic and international.
Internationalization (10%) Rate of international faculty, rate of international students, rate of exchange students to overseas, rate of international exchange students.

The Times-

Thomson Reuter
Conditions of education (30%)  
Research results (30%)  
Impact Factor per Publication (30%)  
Internationalization level (7.5%)  
Income of industry (2.5%)  

Problems of University Evaluation
  University Evaluation first started to enhance the quality of universities, but it is being criticized not only for instigating unnecessary competition but also for having various problems in the evaluation system. What are the real problems of the evaluation?
  First, the problem of uniformity in terms of evaluation scales. In Korea, there exist 347 universities all with various programs with distinctive features, and it is practically impossible to measure them all with a uniform scale. For example, the number of faculty publications could evaluate the research capacity of natural science programs, but it would not be the same with the area of humanities or arts.
  Secondly, the rank number alone lacks validity as an evaluation index. Currently, universities have come to care too much about the index of internationalization after the score of index of internationalization became important. For example, the increase in the number of lectures given in English is one of the indexes of the internationalization done blindly. The problem with lectures given in English has already been addressed on numerous occasions with multiple suicides of KAIST students. That shows our current situation in which only the results of the evaluation were pursued at the cost of students’ learning and university education. As not all the indexes are open to the public, we cannot fully understand the conditions of each university. However, the current evaluating system seems to be able to measure only the quantitative data, not the qualitative data.
  Thirdly, there is a lack of communication between the university and students. There is no index of student’s satisfaction, which is the most important index. That must be one of the reasons why we can rarely empathize with the result of the evaluation. That there is no index of student’s satisfaction is the same as having no consumer evaluation in an evaluation of a company. Students have the right to evaluate their university, as they are the ones who pay tuition and use the education service that university offers. Students are in fact the ones who can most accurately evaluate the university, but we can’t find any data on enrolled student’s satisfaction in the evaluation index. Perhaps that is why universities do not show much concern about student’s situations, rather focusing on the aspects that evaluating institutions value.
  Fourthly, there is a surge in academic elitism that is consequential to the university ranking. More often than not, competition is the root of the various social problems we have in Korea. As our society becomes more competitive, we tend to consider everything in terms of rank. University evaluation also instigates fierce competition, creating side effects that strengthen prejudice about universities based on rank numbers. On the other hand, the rankings intensify competition for university entrance and the vicious cycle of competition keeps repeating. This is also the result of authenticity given to the evaluation results, as it is circulated and reproduced widely by the press.
  Fifthly, this evaluation of universities holds the power to close the improperly run universities and merge departments. Universities that rank the lowest in evaluations are branded, being put on a limited bankroll. The index of employment rate of graduates also leads to the evaluation of universities and departments, often resulting in a merging of departments. Most departments’ merging occurs in the department of pure academic studies. Students can no longer pursue their dreams on campus where poor numbers can threaten any departments’ future.
  The problem with the university evaluation result mentioned above is that it neither reinforces international competitiveness nor raises the quality of university education. The evaluation fails to achieve the most important improvement, as it covers only the quantitative conditions. Also, clever tricks of some universities may work in terms of earning good scores in the short run, but it eventually brings out more serious problems. Unfortunately, it already occurs everywhere—not the evaluation of development but the development for evaluation. If problems like this are not resolved, the objectivity and validity of university evaluation will be forever missing, debilitating the essence of university as well.

The future directions of University Evaluation
  The simple abolition of evaluation cannot be the answer to the aforementioned problems, and it is crucial for the long-term development of universities. In order to manage the fund for university education and encouraging healthy competition among universities, practice of evaluation is necessary. Only the existing problems should be addressed and solved, and the evaluation should work to help develop universities in the right direction, not as commercial enterprises, but as educational institutions.
  The top priority is that the evaluations have to accept the diversities of different universities. It should establish new standards of evaluation, reflecting on the features of each area or each university’s various functions, and it should promote educational development in different fields. Also, it should not evaluate universities only through figures. It should evaluate the qualities of education, the conditions of universities, and whether universities are true to their roles. It should address fair issues and values in terms of evaluation, monitoring thoroughly. To evaluate well like this, evaluation by enrolled students is also important. New standards and new methods of evaluation should be created in order to reflect the student’s opinions. If the student’s voices are heard, it will be possible to evaluate universities accurately and it will be able to enrich the quality of universities. Students in universities should also take a profound interest in not only the evaluation of universities, but also their own university. It will help create smoother communication between the students and university. Lastly, the evaluation should reject the rankings of universities, listing them in order of scores. It may need to compare each school’s competitiveness depending on certain evaluation indexes, but discussing merits and demerits only with ranking of university is unfair and unnecessary. The goal of the evaluation should not be to determine the rankings. Rather, it should stimulate consideration of the essence and true role of universities.
  In the future, universities as well as university evaluation institutions needs to reconsider the true nature of universities. They should keep in mind that universities are educational institutions, not commercial enterprises. They should not try to raise the rankings, but improve the environment of education and study. The evaluation of universities should be done in a way that helps universities be faithful to their role, and it should become a positive stimulant that can help the university's development.

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