Don’t decouple Romanian universities from international excellence

Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

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Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

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Last month’s Rectors’ conference of Romanian premier universities, the Universitaria Consortium, expressed concerns about Romania’s academic system. This is increasingly diverging from international standards (see, for example, M. Miclăuș and O. Micu Nature 558, 189; 2018). In our view, these concerns are being fuelled by government moves that undermine the status of the country’s leading universities, whose resistance to political interference is well known.

At the end of last year, the Ministry of Education hired a commission of foreign experts to reform Romania’s university-ranking system. Although insight into the process itself is limited, we were given the commission’s first draft report at a public consultation with the universities (see for the preliminary version; in Romanian). For example, less than one-quarter of the latest draft’s proposed performance indicators seem to accord with those used in major international university rankings; instead, many are used to evaluate institutional facilities such as lecture halls and dormitories. Under this system, all publications would carry equal weight, irrespective of whether they had been peer reviewed.

The draft’s criteria seem designed to serve political, not scientific, ends. We are concerned that rewarding small, local universities that have no international standing, rather than those with a record of academic excellence, could foster hierarchies of political influence and further isolate Romania’s research community. Rather, Romania needs a ranking system that can accelerate its integration into the international academic arena.

Nature 560, 167 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05876-6

Competing Financial Interests

Daniel David is vice-rector of the Babes-Bolyai University, being responsible for academic excellence and research. Bálint Markó is vice-rector of the Babeș-Bolyai University, being responsible for quality assurance and academic extensions.

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