Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Are the US and the UK really making a comeback?

The latest QS World University Rankings and the THE World Reputation Rankings have just been published. The latter will feed into the forthcoming world rankings where the two reputation indicators, research and postgraduate teaching, will account for 33 per cent of the total weighting, 

The THE reputation rankings include only 100 universities. QS is now ranking close to 1,000 universities and provides scores for 500 of them including academic reputation and employer reputation.

The publication of these rankings has led to claims that British and American universities are performing well again after  a period of stress and difficulty. In recent years we have heard a great deal about the rise of Asia and the decline of the West. Now it seems that THE and QS are telling us that things are beginning to change.

The rise of Asia has perhaps been overblown but if Asia is narrowly as Northeast Asia and Greater China then there is definitely something going on. Take a look at the record of Zhejiang University in the Leiden Ranking publications indicator. In 2006-9 Harvard produced a total of 27,422 papers and Zhejiang University 11,173. In the period 2013-16 the numbers were 33,045 for Harvard and 20,876 for Zhejiang. In seven years Zhejiang has gone from 42% of Harvard's score to 63%. It is not impossible that Zhejiang will reach parity within two decades.

We are talking about quantity here. Reaching parity for research of the highest quality and the greatest impact will take longer but here too it seems likely that within a generation universities like Peking, Zhejiang, Fudan, KAIST and the National University of Singapore will catch up with and perhaps surpass the Ivy League, the Russell Group and the Group of Eight.

The scientific advance of China and its neighbours is confirmed by data from a variety of sources, including the deployment of supercomputers,  the use of robots, and, just recently,  the Chinese Academy of Science holding its place at the top of the Nature Index.

There are caveats. Plagiarism is a serious problem and the efficiency of Chinese research culture is undermined by  cronyism and political conformity. But these are problems that are endemic, and perhaps worse, in Western universities.

So it might seem surprising that the two recent world rankings show that American and British universities are rising again. 

But perhaps it should not be too surprising. QS and THE emphasise reputation surveys, which have a weighting of 50% in the QS world rankings and 33% in THE's. There are signs that British and American universities and others in the Anglosphere are learning the reputation management game while universities in Asia are not so interested.

Take a look at the the top fifty universities in the QS academic reputation indicator, which is supposed to be about the best universities for research. The countries represented are:
US 20
UK 7
Australia 5
Canada 3
Japan 2
Singapore 2
China 2
Germany 2.

There is one each for Switzerland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, France and Brazil.

The top fifty universities in the QS citations per faculty indicator, a measure of research excellence, are located in:
USA 20
China 4
Switzerland 4
Netherlands 3
India  2
Korea 2
Israel 2
Hong Kong 2
Australia 2.

There is one each from Saudi Arabia, Italy, Germany, UK, Sweden, Taiwan, Singapore and Belgium.

Measuring citations is a notoriously tricky business and probably some of the high flyers in the reputation charts are genuine local heroes little known to the rest of the world. There is also now a lot of professional advice available about reputation management for those with cash to spare. Even so it is striking that British, Australian, and Canadian universities do relatively well on reputation in the QS rankings while China, Switzerland, the Netherlands, India and Israel do relatively well for citations.

For leading British universities the mismatch is very substantial. According to the 2018-19 QS world rankings, Cambridge is 2nd for academic reputation, 71st for citations, Manchester is 33rd and 221st, King's College London 47th and 159th, Edinburgh 24th and 181st. It is not surprising that British universities should perform well in rankings where there is a 40 % weighting for reputation.

The THE reputation rankings have produced some good results for several US universities.
UCLA has risen from 13th to 9th    
Cornell from 23rd to 18th                      
University of Washington from 34th to 28th                
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 36th to 32nd            Carnegie Mellon from 37th to 30th                    
Georgia Institute of Technology from 48th to 44th.                             
Some of this is probably the result of a change in the distribution of survey responses. I have already pointed out that the fate of Oxford in the THE survey rankings is tied to the percentages of responses from the arts and humanities. THE have reported that their survey this year had an increased number of responses from computer science and engineering and a reduced number from the social sciences and the humanities. Sure enough, Oxford has slipped slightly while LSE has fallen five places. 

The shift to computer science and engineering in the THE survey might explain the improved reputation of Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon. There is, I suspect, something else going on and that is the growing obsession of some American universities with  reputation management, public relations and rankings, including the hiring of professional consultants.

In contrast, Asian universities have not done so well in the THE reputation rankings.

University of  Tokyo has fallen from 11th to 13th place    
University of Kyoto from 25th to 27th      
Osaka University from 51st to 81st         
Tsinghua University is unchanged in 14th  
Peking University 17 unchanged in 17th   
Zhejiang University has fallen from the 51-60 band to 71-80          University of Hong Kong has fallen from 39th to 40th.        

All but one of the US universities have fallen in the latest Nature Index, UCLA by 3.1%, University of Washington 1.7%, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 12%, Carnegie Mellon 4.8%, Georgia Tech 0.9%.

All but one of the Asian universities have risen in the Nature Index, Tokyo by 9.2%, Kyoto 15.1%, Tsinghua 9.5%, Peking 0.9%, Zhejiang 9.8%, Hong kong 25.3%.

It looks like that Western and Asian universities are diverging. The former are focussed on branding, reputation, relaxing admission criteria, searching for diversity. They are increasingly engaged with, or even obsessed with, the rankings.

Asian universities, especially in Greater China and Korea, are less concerned with rankings and public relations and more with academic excellence and research output and impact. 

As the university systems diverge it seems that two different sets of rankings are emerging to cater for the academic aspirations of different countries.












Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Nature Index: Is This the Future of Science?


The Nature Index ranks countries and institutions according to their publications in the most highly reputed scientific journals. It is  a reliable guide to performance at the highest levels of research.
Here are the academic institutions in the current top 100 that have risen or fallen by ten per cent or more in the latest edition. The indicator is adjusted fractional count 2016-2017.

The 2018 world  rank is on the left. The percentage increase or decrease is on the right.

I think I see a few patterns here.

Rising Institutions

14.  National Institutes of Health, USA   10.0%
20.  Kyoto University  15.1%
31.  University of Chinese Academy of Sciences 64.8%
37.  National University of Singapore  10.5%
41.  Indian Institutes of Technology (all of them)  28%
44.  Fudan University 11.1%
61.  Texas A and M University  23.7%
62.  Shanghai Jiao Tong University 30.4%
68.  Wuhan University 31.3%
69.  University of Edinburgh 11.5%
72   University of Bristol  25.3%
74.  University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center 20.5%
76.  Sun Yat-sen University, China 26.6%
81.  Xiamen University 18.7%
86.  University of Utah   22.2%
95.  Sichuan University  24%
98.  Wurzburg Universit 19.7

Falling Institutions

11.  University of Oxford -15.2%
24.  Yale University  -13.6%
38.  University of Illinois Urbana Champagne  -12%
43.  EPF Lausanne -11.2%
47.  University of Minnesota   -15.5%
55.  Leibniz Association, Germany  -10%
57.  Duke University -15.3%
82.  Mcgill University -15.9%
84.  Tohoku University -18.3%
88.  Rutgers University -17.3%
89.  Technical University Munich  -11.6%
91,  University of Zurich   -11.8%
93.  NASA, USA  -16.5%







Monday, June 18, 2018

Responses to the QS Academic Survey


QS has published the percentage of responses to this year's academic survey (which is about the best universities for research) from different countries. 

The table below combines the percentages in the surveys of 2007, 2013 and 2018 (for the "2019" rankings) ranked by the percentages for 2013. The data for 2009 and 2013 are from a previous post.

There are some interesting things here. The UK has more responses than France and Germany combined. 

There are more responses from Malaysia than from China.

There are more responses from Kazakhstan than from India.

There are almost as many responses from Australia, Canada and New Zealand as there are from the USA.

The number of responses from these countries has risen by a percentage point or more since 2013: Russia, Malaysia, Iraq, Kazakhstan.

The number of responses from these countries has fallen by a percentage point or more since 2013: USA, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Hungary. 


Table: Percentage of responses to QS academic survey.


country
2007
2013
2018
USA
10.0
17.4
8.5
UK
5.6
6.5
7.0
Brazil
1.1
6.3
3.3
Italy
3.3
4.7
3.5
Germany
3.0
3.8
2.5
Canada
4.0
3.4
3.3
Australia
3.5
3.2
4.0
France
2.9
2.4
2.0
Japan
1.9
2.9
3.5
Spain
2.3
2.7
3.1
Mexico
0.8
2.6
2.3
Hungary
--
2.0
0.9
Russia
0.7
1.7
4.0
India
3.5
1.7
2.6
Chile
--
1.7
2.0
Ireland
1.5
1.6
0.9
Malaysia
3.2
1.5
4.6
Belgium
2.6
1.4
0.7
Hong Kong
1.9
1.4
1.5
Taiwan
0.7
1.3
2.0
Netherlands
0.6
1.2
0.9
New Zealand
4.1
1.2
1.0
Singapore
2.5
1.2
0.8
China
1.6
1.1
1.8
Portugal
0.9
1.1
1.0
Colombia
--
1.1
1.6
Argentina
0.7
1.0
0.8
South Africa
0.7
1.0
0.8
Denmark
1.2
0.9
0.5
Sweden
1.7
0.9
0.8
Switzerland
1.5
0.8
0.7
Austria
1.3
0.8
0.5
Turkey
1.1
0.7
0.8
Indonesia
1.2
0.5
0.9
Philippines
1.8
0.3
0.5
Iraq
--
0.2
1.4
Kazakhstan
--
0.9
3.0
South Korea
?
?
4.0










Monday, June 04, 2018

Ranking rankings: Crass materialism

As the number and scope of university rankings increase it is time to start thinking about how to rank the rankers.

Indicators for global rankings might include number of universities ranked (Webometrics in 1st place), number of indicators (Round University Ranking), bias, and stability.

There could also be an indicator for crass materialism. Here is a candidate for first place. CNBC quotes a report from Wealth-X (supposedly downloadable, good luck) and lists the top ten universities, all in the USA, for billionaires. Apparently, the ranking also includes universities outside the US.

1.  Harvard
2.  Stanford
3.  Pennsylvania
4.  Columbia
5.  MIT
6.  Cornell
7.  Yale
8= Southern California
8= Chicago
10 Michigan.







Thursday, May 31, 2018

Where did the top data scientists study?


The website efinancialcareers has a list of the top twenty data scientists in finance and banking. This looks like a subjective list and another writer might come up with a different set of experts. Even so it is quite interesting.

Their degrees are mainly in things like engineering, computer science and maths. There is only one each in business, economics and finance.

The institutions where they studied are:
Stanford (three)
University College London (three)
Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble
Oxford
Leonard Stern School of Business, New York University
University of Mexico
Universite Paris Dauphine
Ecole Polytechnique
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
California State University
Indian Institute of Science
Johns Hopkins University
Institute of Management Development and Research, India
University of Illinois
University of Pittsburgh
Indian Institute of Technology.

Harvard, MIT and Cambridge are absent but there are three Indian Institutes,  three French schools and some non-Ivy US places like RPI and the Universities of Pittsburgh and Illinois.





Why are US universities doing so well in the THE reputation rankings?

For the last couple of years the higher education media has tried to present any blip in the fortunes of UK universities as one of the malign effects of Brexit, whose toxic rays are unlimited by space, time or logic. Similarly, if anything unpleasant happens to US institutions, it is often linked to the evil spell of the great orange devil, who is scaring away international students, preventing the recruitment of the scientific elites of the world, or even being insufficiently credulous of the latest settled science.

So what is the explanation for the remarkable renaissance of US higher education apparently revealed by the THE reputation survey published today?

Is Trump working his magic to make American colleges great again?

UCLA is up four places, Carnegie Mellon seven, Cornell six, University of Washington six, Pennsylvania three. In contrast, several European and Asian institutions have fallen, University College London and the University of Kyoto by two places, Munich by seven, and Moscow State University by three.

In the previous post I noted that this year's survey had seen an increased response from engineering and computer science and a reduced one from the social sciences and the arts and humanities. As expected, LSE has tumbled five places and Oxford has fallen one place. Surprisingly, Caltech has fallen as well.

Some schools that are strong in engineering, such as Nanyang Technological University and Georgia Institute of Technology, have done well but I do not know if that is a full explanation for  the success of US universities.

I suspect that US administrators have learned that influencing reputation is easier than maintaining scientific and intellectual standards and that a gap is emerging between perceptions and actual achievements.

It will be interesting to see if these results are confirmed by the reputation indicators included in the QS, Best Global Universities, and the Round University Rankings


Sunday, May 27, 2018

The THE reputation rankings

THE have just published details of their reputation rankings which will be published on May 30th, just ahead, no doubt coincidentally, of the QS World University Rankings.

The number of responses has gone down a bit, from 10,566 last year to 10,162, possibly reflecting growing survey fatigue among academics.

In surveys of this kind the distribution of responses is crucial. The more responses from engineers the better for universities in Asia. The more from scholars in the humanities the better for  Western Europe. I have noted in a previous blog that the fortunes of Oxford in this ranking are tied to the percentage of responses from the arts and humanities.

This year there have been modest or small reductions in the percentage of responses from the clinical and health sciences, the life sciences, the social sciences, education and psychology and  large ones for business and economics and the arts and humanities.

The number of responses in engineering and computer science has increased considerably.

It is likely that this year places like Caltech and Nanyang Technological University will do better while Oxford and LSE will suffer. It will be interesting to see if THE claim that this is all the fault of Brexit, an anti-feminist reaction to Oxford's appointment of a female vice-chancellor or government Scrooges turning off the funding tap.

         

2017  %
2018  %
Physical science
14.6
15.6
Clinical and health
14.5
13.2
Life sciences
13.3
12.8
Business and economics
13.1
9
engineering
12.7
18.1
Arts and humanities
12.5
7.5
Social sciences
8.9
7.6
Computer science
4.2
10.4
Education
2.6
2.5
Psychology
2.6
2.3
Law
0.9
1.0



North America
22
22
Asia Pacific
33
32
Western Europe
25
26
Eastern Europe
11
11
Latin America
5
5
Middle East
3
3
Africa
2
2