On the hunt for evidence-based marketing tools, Australian universities are signing up for one of the latest products from the world rankings company, QS, priced at $30,000.
Universities in 14 countries, including nine in Australia, have undergone the QS Stars evaluation. A company spokeswoman said the audit costs $9850 and a licence fee for using the rating on promotional material was priced at $6850 for each of three years.
An overall rating from one star to five stars is awarded, as well as ratings across eight criteria. The first — and only Group of Eight institution — to sign was the University of NSW, in June. The latest is the University of Wollongong, which announced its rating last week. Both received an overall rating of five stars. The others are the University of Newcastle, RMIT University, the University of Technology, Sydney, the University of Tasmania, Bond University, Swinburne University of Technology and the Queensland University of Technology. Overseas buyers include the University of Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford and MIT.
Criteria are research quality, teaching quality, graduate employability, infrastructure, internationalization, innovation and knowledge transfer, “third mission” (equity measures and so on) and specialist subject criteria.
UNSW pro vice-chancellor Jennie Lang said the university had included the rating in some international prospectuses. “More and more universities have to move to evidence-based marketing, to make claims that can be supported by thorough assessment by external organizations,” Ms Lang said.
She said with students choosing among institutions all over the world, issues such as the student experience could make the difference in choosing from a shortlist of two or three.
Wollongong deputy vice-chancellor (international) Joe Chicharo said he viewed the stars as a kind of international version of the Good Universities Guide, which provided more consumer-oriented information.
Rankings scholar Ellen Hazelkorn said the QS Star System was a “smart and inevitable development in the higher education knowledge intelligence business”.