ARC’s new research ranking: maybe, maybe not

The Australian Research Council will use existing classifications for the next edition of its performance review – but give elite universities an alternative

Same again : Excellence in Research for Australia  2023 will assess institutions’ performance in fields of research by the existing five categories, from “well below” world standard to “well above.”

But with added oomph: However the ARC will pilot a new ranking, proposed in a March paper (CMM March 14). Categories start at “not at world standard,” and progress through “world standard”, “above …” , “well above …” to  “world leading,”  which is defined as “universities that are among the small number of the best of the high performing institutions worldwide.”

Unless there isn’t:  According to the ARC’s framework, released yesterday, institutions’ research units will be evaluated on the 2018 scales, with those fields of research rated four and five “reassessed”.

“If the pilot is successful, the ARC may present the pilot results as the final results in the ERA 2023 National Report.”

Where this comes from: There has long been talk that “world standard” no longer really rates and that Australian research should be judged only against European, North American and UK universities – and recently, elite PRC institutions.

The previous government’s acting education minister, Stuart Robert brought change on in December (CMM February 8). Mr Robert called on the ARC to create a“ benchmarking structure that is clear in its ambition and provides granular and meaningful reporting of the level of achievement across different universities.” He also wanted, a scale that, “sets the ‘world standard’ benchmark against those nations and universities that are at the forefront of research.”