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Geographic location, resources and organization account for 59% of university ranking results

A study carried out by Ivie and BBVA Foundation suggests the classification of universities into homogeneous groups to better assess their efficiency

The Ivie and BBVA Foundation presented in Madrid the study La Universidad Española: Grupos Estratégicos y Desempeño before representatives from the University community. This report, directed by the Professor of the University of Valencia Joaquín Aldás, in collaboration with researchers Alejandro Escribá, María Iborra and Vicente Safón, addresses the possibility of analyzing university performance by considering their different characteristics, resources and socio-economic context.

To achieve this, the authors classify universities with similarities into seven strategic groups. Thus, the results are comparable on a more homogeneous basis than that of general rankings.

In the past 20 years, the Spanish University System has become much more heterogeneous due to the development and coexistence of universities that are large and small, general and specialized, public and private, graduate or post-graduate oriented, with local or international students, etc. This heterogeneity, according to the researchers, is what raises the need to group universities according to their similarities.

The strategic groups are clustered according to each university’s geographical characteristics, financial resources, type of teaching staff and students, as well as the degree of organizational complexity (size and degrees offered). According to the study, these factors make up 59% of the results obtained in the following areas: teaching, research and technological development.

The seven groups are:

  1. Distance learning universities
  2. Private universities
  3. Highly specialized universities
  4. Large metropolitan universities
  5. Young research universities
  6. Generalist regional universities
  7. Teaching-oriented public universities

Classifying into strategic groups allows, not only to evaluate universities within the same context, but also to find examples of good models to follow among those that are similar and to set up improvement goals by imitating closely related and realistic strategies. With more precise information to base its criteria, the Administration would be able to set specific objectives for universities and to distribute public resources among universities according to their performance.

Joaquín Aldás and Alejandro Escribá began the presentation of the book by explaining its content, methodology and main conclusions.

Following, a round table session was held to analyze possible areas in which the Spanish University System needs improvement, which counted on the expertise of: José Juan Moreso, Chairman of the Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU); José María Sanz, Rector of the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM); and Julio Iglesias de Ussel, Professor at the Complutense University and former Secretary of State for Universities.

The experts debated on whether to differentiate among models of universities as the American system does and if environmental factors should be taken into account when assessing university results. Also, the value of general rankings was put into question. Proposals were also made to the Administration to promote improvements in the universities and distinctions were made in the objectives of universities within the groups with better results and the ones with more modest resources.

More information


Programme and presentations

Tuesday, 13 December 2016