UvA Communication and Media Studies Are Running the Game Worldwide: What the Rankings Don’t Say

On February 28, the magazine QS World University Rankings, revealed this year’s university world rankings for multiple subjects. Among them, the University of Amsterdam jumped from second to first worldwide in the Communication & Media Studies category. With over 5,500 students and 200 programs taught in English, the University has been downgrading over the years in the overall ranking worldwide, going from 55th in 2016 to 58th this year.


An archive photo from Roeterseiland campus. Isabel Bonnet / Staff

Embellishing the university’s reputation and the faculty proudness, some unsatisfied students questioned the rankings. In September 2016, UvA premiered the English track of the Communication Science degree. However, it started with complains and discouragement from the students. During their third block of the first semester last year, communication science students signed a petition to re-do an exam they believed was not correctly translated. Happening multiple times afterwards, it was a major discussion of this year’s Student Council elections. Parties such as UvA Sociaal aimed to prevent degrees to be taught in English before a clear translation of the courses was assured. “It is important to keep quality rather than quantity of students,” Ksenya Golub told the The Amsterdammer earlier last week. The 21-year-old and second-year communication science student believes that the university was not ready to create the English track for the Communication Science degree, and that it should only happen “if they have the substainable education level already.”

Unlike Golub, second-year communication science student and student representative, Ali Kutlu, believes that difficulties and problems were expected. “We are the first class of English track of Communication Science, and therefore, there was obviously room for improvement,” he said. Kutlu moved from Turkey to Germany before deciding to continue his studies in  Amsterdam. Overall, the 22-year-old student is satisfied with the course. “I am actually quite happy about my student life so far, because my initial goal was to pass every single course until the second semester of the third year,” he said. “I was lucky enough and good enough to achieve it, I’m really happy about it.” For him, the improvements needed are not in the quality of education provided, but rather in the help given to international students to find an accommodation.

A first-year student in communication science at UvA, who preferred to stay anonymous, shared Kutlu’s opinion on the university and experience as a student. However, the student said it is the first time he attends a university, and therefore , he cannot make any valid comparisons with other institutions himself. “As far I as know, […] Communication Science […] [at] UvA got selected for the first place due to its high research quality. But I doubt that research quality is really relevant for us students. The quality of the lectures and the tutorials are way more important for us.” Indeed, the rankings do not specify for which degree the subject “Communication & Media Studies” lie on.

Which of Communication Science or Media Studies ranked first worldwide? Was it both? Or the combination of both of them? The rankings do not specify whether the Dutch or English track is evaluated, or if both of them are taken into account. Furthermore, the rankings are created based only on the following criteria: academic reputation, employer reputation, citation per paper and h-index citation. Having 100 percent in academic reputation and highly graded in the two last that together cover research papers, the University of Amsterdam only scored 73.7 percent in employer reputation. Being a research-based university, the two other criteria were expected to be satisfying as well. However, if the universities would have been ranked by the employer reputation only, UvA would have ranked 78th worldwide and the MIT would be running the game instead, followed by the Stanford University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Experiencing the daily quality of the university, students shared their opinion about their satisfaction towards the university, and the ranking of the Communication Science track at the UvA. Overall, students do not seem to deny the general quality of the Communication Science course, especially in the research field. However, it is clear that there are some doubts about the quality of the English track of Communication Science. Moreover, there seems to be a question mark about the relevance of the ranking, whether it mirrors the quality of the lectures and tutorials or not, which is surely one of the most relevant academic aspect for the students.

Avenue reporter, Spring 2018