Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Unheard Woes Behind the Prestigious Walls

by the Weekly Sillimanian | November 15, 2021

Silliman University ranked 5th in the top ten Philippine universities for the 2022 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Asia University Rankings, released last Nov. 2. As people of this institution, we naturally celebrated this prestige. After all, despite the challenges Sillimanians have faced due to global issues in the last year, our university still managed to attain multiple achievements of all forms. However, we cannot help but wonder where this ranking places us and what it says about our university and its students and faculty.

To start, we ought to consider people’s reactions to this ranking announcement. Students from other universities in the Philippines reportedly expressed their disappointments online. Most of these were mostly because their university did not make it to the top ranks. They believed that with their school’s academic achievements and overall quality of education, they also should have made it to a higher position in the listing. While one may label this reaction as out of order or even unbecoming, this also could indicate that the factors used in these rankings need to be reconsidered, if not reevaluated.

According to topuniversities.com, the metrics or indicators used in ranking universities include the following: academic reputation, employer reputation, teacher/student ratio, citations per faculty, international student ratio, and international faculty ratio. With SU’s positive reputation in these factors, the methodology used to rank universities seems like an effective one at first. However, these criteria only consider the quantitative and nominal aspects while overlooking the more introspective ones, such as the emotional and mental well-being of students and faculty.

The notion that one’s mental health affects productivity and work quality is not unheard of, so why is this not considered in the QS Ranking, which is supposedly influential in declaring the “best of the best” in the academic and employment world? One may argue that the challenge with measuring people’s happiness or satisfaction is the main reason why. However, several groups of people have arguably overcome this and the World Happiness Report (WHR) is proof of that.

The World Happiness Report is a publication that aims to rank countries by happiness through the consideration of six characteristics: “GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity, and perception of corruption”. If there is anything the QS Ranking can learn from WHR, it is to be more holistic in approaching its rankings, resulting in more accurate and believable results.

To put these matters into perspective, Finland and her European Union neighbors, specifically Denmark and Switzerland, have been considered to be the “happiest” countries in the world, but when it comes to academic rankings, they place fairly at the bottom as compared to the United States or the United Kingdom, where the top-ranked universities like MIT and Oxford are located. Based on this instance, it should be safe to say that the bodies that facilitate these academic rankings have largely failed to see the more personal side of the academe – the personal and emotional state of both its students and faculty.

As Sillimanians, we take pride in the academic and employment achievements our university has attained and the QS Ranking has definitely done that part of us justice. However, considering our well-being in these rankings also needs to start being inherent. After all, a university is nothing without its students and faculty — and the happier they are, the more productive and effective the university is.

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