Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Should Malaysian universities celebrate rising in the QS Rankings?


Should Malaysian universities celebrate rising in the QS Rankings?

My article in the Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times can be accessed here. You can post comments at this blog.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

The THE European Teaching Rankings

On July 11th Times Higher Education (THE) will publish their new European university rankings. These are supposed to be about teaching and seem to give priority to students as consumers of higher education.

They are similar to THE's Japanese and US rankings with four "pillars": Engagement (five indicators derived from the European Student Survey), Resources (three indicators), Outcomes (three indicators) and Environment, which consists entirely of the gender ratio of faculty and students.

THE are presenting these rankings as an innovative pilot project so they might contain interesting insights lacking in other international rankings. But it looks like THE will follow previous practice and only give scores for the four pillars and not for the component indicators. This would drastically reduce their value for students and other indicators since it would be difficult or impossible to figure exactly what has contributed to a high or a low score for any of the pillars.

Although the rankings claim to assess teaching, there is still a substantial research component here. Papers to staff ratio gets a weighting of 7.5%, and THE's survey of postgraduate teaching, which correlates very closely with the research survey, gets 10%.

What is missing here is any serious measure of the quality of students or graduates. This is the great omission of the current global ranking scene. QS have a survey of employers and CWUR counts the prizes won by university alumni. Neither of these are relevant for the great majority of institutions around the world.

The most valuable metrics in the US News national ranking are the test scores and high school standing of admitted students. The blunt reality is that employers and graduate and professional schools are interested in the cognitive skills, subject knowledge, conscientiousness and, sadly and increasingly, the willingness to conform of graduates and the ability to universities to nurture these is closely related to students' performance on standardised tests and national exams. It is disappointing that THE have been unable to find a way of capturing the quality of students and graduates.

It is also odd that THE are able to supply data on only one aspect of institutional environment, that is gender ratio.

U-Multirank already covers some of the indicators included in the new rankings and has a reasonable coverage of European universities. Whether THE can do better will be seen on the eleventh.



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

USA has the world's most powerful computer but China still holds the lead for supercomputing

TOP500 has been compiling lists of the world's most powerful supercomputers for the last quarter of a century. Back in June 1993 the world's most powerful computer was Numerical Wind Tunnel at Fujitsu National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan followed by CM-5/1024, Thinking Machines Corporation Los Alamos Laboratory in the USA. 

In that  year the top 500 included 232 in the US, 115 in Japan, 56 in Germany, 25 in France and 24 in the UK. There were three in Taiwan but none in Mainland China.

The first Chinese supercomputer did not appear in the top 500 until November 1999.

First forward to June 2018. There are now 206 supercomputers in China, up from 202 last November, 124 in the US, down from 143, 36 in Japan, up from 35, 22 in the UK, up from 15, 21 in Germany, no change, 18 in France, also no change.

So China's displacement of the US continues but there is one ray of hope. The world's most powerful supercomputer is in the US for the first time in five and a half years: Summit, at the Department of Energy's  Oak Ridge National Laboratory. But that seems small compensation for the growing gap between China and the US.

The latest ranking also shows that large areas of the world are computer deserts. In the whole of Africa there is only supercomputer, in South Africa. There are only four in the Islamic world, all in Saudi Arabia, three of them at Aramco. There is one in Latin America, in Brazil.


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.