Thursday, March 24, 2016

Update on Trinity College Dublin

Some things have been clarified about the now famous message sent by John Boland, vice-president and dean of research at Trinity College Dublin to various stakeholders.

It seems that the message was about both the QS and the THE academic surveys, referring to the sign up facility for the former and the one dollar donation to charity for the latter.

Apparently THE has no problems with the message.

On the other hand, QS thinks that its guidelines have been breached.

"QS has been made aware of recent communications from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) that appear to contravene the guidelines used by QS to ensure the accuracy of its university rankings. In accordance with our standard operating procedure, we have notified TCD that its “awareness” campaign is in breach of these guidelines."

The issue is not suggesting that anyone should go the sign up facility. That is permitted in clearly stated guidelines. What is not permitted is suggesting what they do after they have signed up.

"It is acceptable and even encouraged for institutions to communicate with employers and academics worldwide to showcase their achievements. Institutions are welcome to invite contacts to sign up for possible selection for our survey using our Academic or Employer Sign Up Facilities, but any message soliciting a specific response in our surveys, represents unfair manipulation of the results and will not be tolerated. "

It is fairly clear what the vice-dean was suggesting people should do although I can see how he might have thought he was being subtle enough to get around the QS guidelines.

One interesting aspect of this affair is that QS is much stricter about influencing the surveys than THE.

I think the main lesson to be learnt from this affair is that it is unwise to allow senior administrators to get involved with any sort of rankings initiative or strategy.

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