We tend to get back to the importance of rankings, and how they relate to alumni relations. We would like to explain my opinions in this matter a bit more. Our reasoning goes as follows.
1. We believe that there will be more rankings of comparable programs at different universities. The Bologna accord will be one driving force for this, but there are also national forces (e.g. the new Jusek initiative in Sweden).
2. Rankings will have an important effect on how successful individual universities are in recruiting new students. Ranking is a very tangible factor when comparing something as intangible as higher education.
3. Universities with well-run alumni programs will do better in rankings than universities that lack alumni programs.
Most people would probably agree with us on #1 and #2, but perhaps not #3. Surely it’s the quality of the education that shows in the ranking, not the alumni program? Well, here are a few reasons why I think that alumni programs are important for the actual ranking:
– Having a well-run alumni program might in itself improve the ranking. One example: an alumni program is required for getting an Equis accreditation.
– A well-run alumni program uses the alumni to provide good links between students and future employers, thus improving the employability of students. Higher percentage of recent graduates that find a job –> higher ranking. Higher average salary –> higher ranking.
– “Customer satisfaction” is an important factor in many rankings. Satisfied alumni –> higher ranking. A successful alumni program can influence the alumni and increase their satisfaction of the actual education.
– A very basic factor: if you don’t have contact information to your alumni you might have problem to get good response rate. Even if you can use a national address system (like Spar in Sweden) you might want to include your expatriate alumni in the survey.
Rankings can also have an interesting effect on the opinion of your alumni: a good ranking will likely make the alumni even more positive towards their alma mater. Having proud alumni is important for good word of mouth!
Last but not least: If you get a good ranking, communicate it to your alumni. They will spread the word. Got a bad ranking? Don’t put your head in the sand. Use the alumni community for “damage control”, to explain why the ranking didn’t go very well and how that will improve in the future.