Creating an Online Dimension for University Rankings


Creating a rankings system to measure the of quality of online education comparing online universities and with face-to-face universities.


Online distance teaching and learning has the potential to revolutionise education, making it less expensive, less exclusive and more accessible. However, online distance education, when compared with conventional face-to-face education, is still sometimes regarded with suspicion. In short, online distance education has an image problem, which is only exacerbated by the emergence of low-cost online education providers of doubtful quality.

Currently, the most influential tools for comparing universities globally are the well-known commercial university ranking systems (such as the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings). Although these frequently criticised systems are here to stay, for online education providers (such as The Open University) they are especially problematic. None of the existing systems consider the unique characteristics of online education institutions, because the standard ranking criteria and indicators that may be appropriate for most face-to-face universities often simply do not fit online distance universities. All of this leads to online education providers being far lower in the university rankings than the quality of their teaching and learning warrants, skewing the global university marketplace, and misleading potential students and funders alike. Furthermore, there currently exists no agreed alternative system for ranking or comparing online education institutions with other online education institutions.

The Open University has joined forces with Spain's Open University of Catalunya and Italy's National Research Council, to address these problems by developing a new approach that gives a more accurate and useful picture of the quality of online distance universities. The project, known as CODUR (Creating an Online Dimension for University Rankings) is funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ Programme. Its aim is to develop an online dimension for university ranking that, building on the various approaches that have been explored by other researchers, can be integrated into U-Multirank (the EU-funded international university comparison system that aims to take a more sophisticated approach, than the dominant commercial systems, to comparing universities).

The creation of proper criteria and indicators for the measurement of quality in online education, by the CODUR team, will allow online universities to be compared accurately and effectively, both with other online universities and with face-to-face universities.  Inevitably, this will lead to higher quality online teaching and learning, it will allow students and funders to make properly informed decisions, it will create more opportunities for students to access high quality online education, and it will raise the profile of the online university sector.



  • European Commission


  • Fundacio per a la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
  • Instituto Technologie Didattiche CNR