The main person in the education system, for whom universities are functioning, lectures are being prepared, textbooks and teaching and methodical complexes are being written, the education system is being invested and commercialized, is, of course, a student. However, in the process of managing the system as a whole, conducting accreditations and attestations, preparing reports, ranking and development strategies, this fact sometimes leaves a focus, not only of the administration of higher education institutions but also much higher structures.
Thus, QS rankings, which are popular and considered the most influential for Kazakhstani universities, assess such criteria for the activity of universities as the academic reputation of the institution and reputation among employers. In addition to that, these measurements include share of foreign faculty, share of employees with a scientific degree, publication activity, scientific citation of publications, the effectiveness of Internet resources. However practically do not cover the quality of work with students, the level of satisfaction with the atmosphere, the relationships that exist between the groups of teachers, the administrative staff and the student body in the university (365info.kz, 2017).
QS criteria, however, include the ratio of faculty (faculty and students ratio), but this parameter, in this case, reflects a more quantitative characteristic than the students’ well-being and the atmosphere in which they interact with the university staff, that is, the quality of the services.
However, unlike rankings more common and well known in the academic community, the Europe Teaching Rankings 2018, implemented by the Times Higher Education agency, focuses on students’ perception and assessment of the academic environment of universities, that is, the conditions in which they study, develop and become specialists. The bottom line is that the ranking is based on the results of a student survey – a survey of more than 30,000 students from more than 240 universities in Western and Southern Europe. Although data from some other sources are also involved – information from institutions, agency websites, academic reputation research and the bibliometric Elsevier data set.
The organizers of the surveys were interested in four main areas for study:
– Interaction – is the institution working effectively with its students?
– Resources – does the institution have the ability to teach effectively?
– Results – does the institution produce relevant results for students?
– Environment – is the educational environment favorable?
Obviously, the results of the student-oriented ranking are significantly different from those of the World University Ranking, which focus on scientific excellence on a global scale, but their relevance to students and their families, when making one of the most important decisions in their lives, is undeniable. The answer to the question – to whom to entrust their education? – depends not only on the number of Nobel laureates among graduates of certain university.
Below are the survey questions used in the ranking (students were asked to answer on a scale from zero to 10):
To what extent can you interact with the teachers of your university in the educational process?
Does the university provide opportunities for joint learning?
To what extent does teaching at your university support critical thinking?
To what extent does the teaching at your university support the application of your training in the real world?
Were there any classes that you accepted at your university, which you estimate as challengeable?
Could you recommend your university to a friend?
Has your university offered an effective and useful internship that will prepare you for your chosen career?
To what extent are you satisfied with the access to the educational materials (for example, the library, texts, laboratories, and online materials) at your university?
To what extent are you satisfied with the quality of the learning environment (for example, lecture halls, training grounds, and laboratories) at your university?
Do you think that teaching at your university helps you learn skills that will be useful for hiring after graduating from your university?
Is there an opportunity for the university to learn and connect with the labor market (for example, through employment, career advice)?
To assess more specifically the achievements of universities in each field of study, their questions were selected.
So, to determine the degree of development of interaction within learning, four questions were posed: How much does the university course support critical thinking? Do the teachers support the reflections of students or the establishment of connections between things and phenomena? To what extent is the student’s education close to the real conditions? How much classes are pushing students to solve the problem?
No less important was the question of how much the student has the opportunity to interact with teachers? In addition, to what extent does the university provide opportunities for joint action?
The study of resources gave an idea of whether the institution has a sufficient number of teachers for training. These data were taken from the statistical documentation of the institutions. Will the student receive the individual attention that is necessary for them to succeed at the university? The students were also asked to evaluate their access to educational materials and the quality of their learning environment.
Among the results of the activity of the university its reputation in the field of professional development of teachers, the proportion of students who complete their programs at the scheduled time, and the students’ opinion whether they receive skills that will be useful in the future sphere of work were considered.
Under the environment, the gender balance of students and teachers at the university is meant. Universities with a ratio of 50:50 are estimated at 100 points, and those in which there is an imbalance, get a lower score.
The results of the ranking are as follows:
As might be expected, the two oldest universities in the UK top the list. The first place in the Europe Teaching Rankings 2018 table is the University of Oxford, which leads the results column. At the second position – Cambridge University, which ranks first in the resource column. In general, Great Britain has the largest number of universities in the table of 100 best institutions. The Spanish Comillas Pontifical University heads the interaction section, although in general, it is in the second half of the top 100 table, and the Dutch Hanze University of Applied Sciences occupies the first place in the field of the environment (Times Higher Education, June 28, 2018).
In total, eight countries participate in the rating: Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, Portugal, and Ireland. In addition to Oxford and Cambridge, Sorbonne University (France), the University of Navarra (Spain) and six other British universities were among the top ten universities most favorable to students: University of Warwick, UCL, University of Bristol, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, and University of York.
Theoretically, universities with a large number of employees per student create a better interactive learning environment, because the quality of the educational process at the university depends on how easily students gain access to the teaching staff. In other words, the more professors at the university, the more attention the students receive and the higher they evaluate it. However, this conclusion is not a rule. Strangely enough, none of the above-mentioned 10 universities fell into another ranking – the top 100 universities with the best ratio between students and professors (Europe Teaching Rankings 2018).
In the list of this ranking, Japan dominates with 34 universities, followed by the US with 25 universities. The rest of the top 100 universities are represented by universities of Russia, France, India, and China with a ratio from 0.6 to 8.5 students per teacher. As for the top 10 universities from the list of Europe Teaching Rankings 2018, the smallest ratio has UCL with 10.5 number of students per staff, followed by Cambridge with 10.9, Oxford with 11.2 and Newcastle University with 15.6 number of students per staff completes the group.
There is no doubt that a lower ratio between students and university staff can help students develop closer relations with their teachers, have quick access to feedback on essays and participate in more interactive seminars and discussions, create an environment with a high level of interaction and academic support. However, no less important indicator is the number of hours that students spend with their teachers, the attention and enthusiasm of lecturers, respectful and partnership relations between them. Therefore, the pride of the Oxford system of education is the system of studies with a tutor. They include a small number of students (usually 2 to 4) meeting with teachers to discuss the work (often an essay) that was prepared specifically for this course. They not only maintain close ties between the teacher and the student but also are particularly useful for developing the skills of critical analysis. Classes with a tutor often form the basis of education in Oxford; lectures (several dozen students), practical classes (often groups of perhaps about 10 students) and (scientific) laboratory work also support them.
Kazakhstan has a good ratio of the number of students and teachers – 1:12 (Mihaylov, 2017).
However, it does not participate in international rankings on the students’ perception of the university. The Independent Kazakhstan Agency for quality assurance in education compiled the National Ranking-2018 of the best universities in Kazakhstan. The ranking is based on three components: an assessment of the quality of academic resources of the university, an expert assessment of the quality of the activities of universities, and evaluation of the activities of universities based on a sociological survey of employers and government agencies. (egov.kz , 2018)
It cannot be said that student voices are not audible at all in academic space. The most popular student profile posted on the websites of Kazakhstan universities is the “Teacher with the eyes of students”, usually aimed at identifying students’ opinions about a particular teacher, whether they meet or not meet formal criteria. Only in 2018 on the site of Serikbaev East Kazakhstan State Technical University, a questionnaire “University through the eyes of graduates” appeared the analysis of its results can to a certain extent reflect a more complete picture and the environment of university life from the student’s point of view (EKTU, 2018).
We can also find internal unofficial rankings of universities, based on the opinions of students, in social networks. However, they are usually sharpened on corruption in university education, which, apparently, reflects the main challenges of modern reality in the country.
Sidorov, O. (2017) Why only 22 of Kazakhstan’s universities were included in the TOP-50 rating of EECA? Retrieved from https://365info.kz/2017/10/pochemu-iz-22-h-kazahstanskih-vuzov-tolko-3-voshli-v-top-50-po-rejtingu-eeca. Accessed on 15.09.2018.
Europe Teaching Rankings 2018. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/rankings/europe-teaching/2018#!/page/0/length/25/sort_by/rank/sort_order/asc/cols/undefined. Accessed on 10.09.2018.
Top universities with the best student-to-staff ratio 2018. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/best-universities/top-universities-best-student-staff-ratio. Accessed on 15.09.2018.
Mihaylov, A. (2017) Why is it better to get a higher education in Almaty? Retrieved from https://informburo.kz/mneniya/andrey-mihaylov/pochemu-vysshee-obrazovanie-luchshe-poluchat-v-almaty.html. Accessed on 16.09.2018.
National Rating of the Best Universities in Kazakhstan. (2018) Retrieved from http://egov.kz/cms/ru/articles/2Fbestuniinkz30. Accessed on 17.09.2018.
Questionnaires. (2018) Retrieved from https://www.ektu.kz/ektukz.aspx. Accessed on 17.09.2018.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.