14 November

McGill University managed to break into the top dozen schools in the world, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES). This is one of the more rigorous and large-scale university ranking exercises, which spans universities from all over the world.

The result is a ranking of universities the world over based on research related criteria. This is rather different than ranking system than used on the Canadian MacLeans survey and several similar surveys where most of the emphasis on highly subjective or hotly debated factors that are thought to be important for undergraduate education. The objective of the rating was that 60% of the overall rank is is awarded based on objective quality indices for research faculty. International reputation based on a survey of other academics accounted for 40% of the score, and 20% was based on citations as measured by Thomson ISI's database. Of course, the specific people used for the indices are a source of bias, and one criticism is that this survey includes business leaders, which some academics find objectionable.

No other Canadian school ranked as highly, but of Canadian schools the University of Toronto and UBC both did well (45th and 33rd places). Schools that did better than McGill include Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Yale, MIT and CalTech. Some pretty distinguished places did worse. The rankings cover all areas, so schools with a more specialized focus had a handicap. For example, Tokyo University came in 17th, but I believe it did better in the sciences that in the overall ranking. Carnegie Mellon University came in 20th, but is almost always ranked in the top 3 for computer science.

Of course like all such rankings there is plenty of debate over the precise criteria used and their relative weights. No doubt the precise ordering would vary if the relative importance of the criteria were changed, and many alternative re-weightings are reasonable. For example, National University of Singapore well from 19 to 33 this year, but I doubt the school itself changed that fundamentally. UC Berkeley also fell quite a bit (to 22nd place). Whatever flaws there are, this is a pretty solid ranking system, preferred methodologically to the ranking in, say, US News and World Report (although I have to confess that USNews results for computer science are quite reasonable, with Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California–Berkeley being tied for top spot).

In summary, the numbers are interesting and it's nice to see McGill moving progressively upwards in successive years (in 2005 McGill was ranked 24th, which was still pretty impressive).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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