Friday, November 9, 2007

2007 World University Rankings: NUS, NTU down

National University of Singapore (NUS) appeared at #18 in the 2004 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Rankings but most Singaporeans weren't aware of it. When it showed up at rank #22 in the 2005 Rankings, NUSians celebrated their success. In 2006 it was better - NUS jumped to spot #19. Everyone probably thought at the time that whatever NUS administration, faculty and students were doing, it was just right - that they were moving in the right direction. Which is why this year might come as a shock to many.

NUS is ranked #33 in the THES World University Rankings to be released this year - a rank shared with the University of British Columbia (Canada) and University of Queensland (Australia). It is now ranked lower than McGill University (Canada), which has gone up to secure rank #12.

Even Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has fallen from grace, going down from #61 in 2006 to #69, but that is not much if you look at all the others that have fallen harder.

University of California, Berkeley (US) is down to #22 from #8 (that is a big fall for that university); University of Geneva (Switzerland) is down to #105 from #39; Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) is down to #130 from #67; Macquarie University (Australia) is down to 168 from #82; UNAM (Mexico) is down to #192 from #74; and Washington University in St. Louis (US) is down to #161 from #48!

But we can see big uprises as well: UniCAMP (Brazil) is up from #448 to #177 (what a leap!); University of Florida (US) is up from #226 to #135; University of Western Ontario (Canada) is up from #215 to #126; Ohio State University (US) is up from #219 to #120; and University of Waterloo (Canada) is up from #204 to #112!

So there is definitely something different about this year's rankings. I went through the trouble of checking it out and here's what I could find:

One of the things different in this year's THES QS World University Rankings is that peer reviewers were prevented from promoting their own university. Using peer reviews is one of the basic methodologies used to make the rankings (40% weightage in 2005) and this difference alone seems to show surprising effects in this year's ranking.

Now, THES rankings actually began in 2004 and have proved to be useful on many occasions but they were criticized more often and debated over and over. Back then, they used Thomson's Web of Science - represented by "ESI" as the only available, well-reputed citation data that measured the research strength by university and seemed most appropriate at the time.

Scopus on the other hand, which was also born in 2004 seems to have evolved over time: the Scopus database responds better to queries; it also covers more sources in languages other than English; and it places less emphasis on mere publications leading to greater representation of research done by universities. Another good thing about using Scopus is that it removes the bias towards American universities resulting in a reduced advantage in their favour for this indicator.

In a nutshell, ESI and Scopus both have their merits but the only criticism of using Scopus is that it does not track citations before 1996, and that actually makes it better because THES does not look at data beyond the past 5 years (at least for this year's ranking). So another thing different about the 2007 rankings is that THES has used Scopus to come up with them.

Here I present to you:
The 2007 THES - QS World University Rankings (Top 200)
(Download link for HTML file)

PDF version here.

To compare these rankings with the US News one - America's Best Colleges 2008 (featuring top 124 in the U.S. of A only), click here. (Thanks Kenneth for the link.)

Below is an article published in The Straits Times:

Nov 8, 2007

NUS drops from 19 to 33 in global rankings

But shift is due to new method of compilation, NUS' low staff-to-student ratio

By Sandra Davie, Education Correspondent

THE National University of Singapore (NUS) took a tumble, from 19th spot to No. 33 this year, in the ranking of the world's top 200 universities published by The Times of London Higher Education Supplement on Thursday.

However, this is due to a new way of scoring, said QS, the careers and education group that compiled the much-followed ranking.

It said, with the change, NUS' previously high scores in certain categories such as the percentage of international faculty, did not give it much overall advantage this year.

On the other hand, NUS' low score on staff- to-student ratio affected its ranking.

Mr Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of London-based QS, said NUS continues to do well in all other categories.

NUS improved its score this year for the number of academic citations faculty members notched up. It scored 84 out of 100 here.

'There is no doubt it is one of the elite universities of the world,' said Mr Quacquarelli.

'NUS and NTU's placing in the top 100 are recognition of the quality of education that Singapore's universities offer.'

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) ranked No. 69 this year, down from its 61st spot last year. Singapore Management University is not ranked because of its specialisation in business.

There are six categories.

Forty per cent of the total score depends on what academics from around the world think of the universities; while global employers' keenness to recruit their graduates counts for 10 per cent.

The numbers of foreign students and staff a university attracts are worth 5 per cent each; and the ratios of students to staff and academic citations to staff count for 20 per cent each.

NUS president Shih Choon Fong said: 'NUS still has good standing' as one of the top 50 universities and as one of the top five in Asia.

He said NUS will continue to 'enhance students' experience and push for world class research'. He pointed out that NUS' effort in improving research is already showing in the citation score.

On the staff-student ratio, he said many universities in the United States have significantly higher budgets and endowments and can thus afford to keep their enrolments low and faculty counts high.

He added: 'We don't want to go and hire more faculty just to boost the numbers. We want to ensure they are top quality in their field.'

NUS currently has a 1,944-strong faculty, of which 52 per cent are from overseas.

Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and Yale universities maintained their top four positions for the second year. University College London and the University of Chicago join the top 10 for the first time.

Apart from NUS, the London School of Economics was also affected by the scoring changes, dropping from 17th last year to 59th this year. Stanford fell from sixth to 19th.

The universities of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Beijing, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Tsinghua and Osaka were other Asian institutions in this year's top 50.

Mr Martin Ince, contributing editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement, noted: 'The 2007 rankings show that the US and UK model of independent universities supported with significant state funding, produces great results, but they also prove that academic excellence is found on every continent.'
Author's edit: I apologize but I realized that NUS was ranked #18 in the 2004 ranking (as opposed to not being ranked at all as I said when I made this post). Sorry for the mistake. I have corrected it now.


Kenneth said...

people are so obsessed with rankings!!! that being said, i like who is at #1 ;) all these surveys are flawed of course, but do affect public perception. arguably this may be more important than how good an actual university is because it is the brand people carry on for the rest of their lives.

one interesting thing is for you to compare the thes rankings with the usnews rankings (
the older versions of thes rankings diverged quite a bit from the us news and world report rankings, but they've convereged quite a bit in this iteration.

Won said...

To be very honest, I like rankings and I quote them oftens. And the THES is a very respectable magazine (which unfortunately most people have gotten to know because of this World Univ. ranking and is the only thing they know about THES), but the ranking is now a big joke. Seoul National University is ranked 51st?? WTF?? Next thing you know, SNU will be higher than NUS and NTU. I will probably write to a letter to them on that day. Meanwhile SNU (honestly a lot of the SNU students I've talked to don't really care about the ranking because the shitty things about the school aren't changing; for instance the crappy Law dept. faculty) can mind-masterbate at meaningless rankings.

And BTW, THES Ranking isn't neutral. I remember reading an article in a Korean newspaper that SNU had met with THES people to "talk" about their ranking (euphemism for lobbying and name-polishing).

h@n| said...

Looks like there's been a big fuss about the rankings.

dean said...

guess that people are more and more aware of what university to choose..this pose a great challenge for universities and individuals as to increase ranking..and how to fork out money to go to top ten universities..nevertheless, i believe that what's more important is what type of graduates a university can produce..