Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Russia Might Rise Fairly Quickly in the Rankings After Falling a Bit

An article  by Alex Usher in Higher Education in Russia and Beyond, reprinted in University World News, suggests five structural reasons why Russian universities will not rise very quickly in the global rankings. These are:

  • the concentration of resources in academies rather than universities

  • excessive specialisation among existing universities

  • a shortage of researchers  caused by the economic crisis of the nineties

  • excessive bureaucratic control over research projects

  • limited fluency in English.

Over the next couple of years things might even get a bit worse. QS are considering introducing a sensible form of field normalisation, just for the five main subject groups. This might not happen since they are well aware of the further advantages this will give to English speaking universities, especially Oxbridge and places like Yale and Princeton, that are strong in the humanities and social sciences. But if it did it would not be good for Russian universities. Meanwhile, THE has spoken about doing something about hugely cited multi-authored physics papers and that could drastically affect institutions like MEPhI.

But after that, there are special features in the QS and THE world rankings that could be exploited by Russian universities. 

Russia is surrounded by former Soviet countries where Russian is widely used and which could provide large numbers of international research collaborators, an indicator in the THE rankings, and could be a source of international students and faculty, indicators in the THE and QS rankings and a source of respondents to the THE and QS academic surveys.

Russia might also consider tapping the Chinese supply of bright students for STEM subjects. It is likely that the red bourgeoisie will start wondering about the wisdom of sending their heirs to universities that give academic credit for things like walking around with a mattress or  not shaving armpit hair and think about a degree in engineering from Moscow State or MEPhI.

Russian universities also appear to have a strong bias towards applied sciences and vocational training that should, if marketed properly, produce high scores in the QS employer survey and the THE Industry Income: Innovation indicator.

Italy and France Accept Gaokao Scores

What will happen when universities find gaokao is a better predictor of academic ability than A levels or SAT?

This is from YIBADA

"Up to 1,000 universities in France, Italy, and other 14 popular overseas destinations for Chinese applicants are now accepting national college entrance test scores or "gaokao" scores as admission criteria, according to a report published on Monday by MyOffer, a London-based online student placement portal.
The findings reflect the growing international recognition for China's national college entrance tests despite lagging behind other exams.
MyOffer, which helps international students with university placements, overseas internships and career development, released the study as this year's "gaokao" scores were announced in several parts of China.
Earlier reports claimed that "gaokao" test results were accepted in 20 countries and regions, but MyOffer's study has by far the most detailed findings available."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Today, Cuba and China, Tomorrow North Korea?

Another sign of the growing desperation of American colleges to find international students to take the courses American students just won't take is the four Cuban students who will take the TOEFL in Havana a week from now. There are plans for the GRE to be offered in Cuba in October.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Implications of the University of San Francisco Accepting Gaokao scores.

The University of San Francisco has announced that it will admit a limited number of students on the basis of their scores on the Gaokao, the rigorous Chinese national university entrance exam, plus an interview and English language test in Beijing. The candidates will be spared the necessity of  taking TOEFL prep courses and flying to Hong Kong or Singapore for the SAT test.
American and British universities are running out of students capable of taking tertiary education courses. Average cognitive skills of local students are stagnant or declining, which explains the obsession of universities with finding students from overseas to bring in revenue and balance the books. China appears to have a large number of students capable of high achievement in numeracy-based fields.
What would happen if American universities found that Gaokao scores were more predictive of academic success than a dumbed down SAT? What if the English language component turned out to be just as good a measure of language proficiency as IELTS or TOEFL? The consequence might be that the Gaokao could become the normal route for admission to universities outside China.

And looking ahead several decades, what would happen if the Gaokao was offered in languages other than Chinese with test centres being set up outside China?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Which is the Real Fraud?

The Australian via Inside higher Ed has an article by Kylar Loussikian about a shadowy organisation apparently based in Colchester, England, that supplies ghostwritten academic essays. Australian universities, and maybe others, are getting very concerned about the racket. 

'The most common issue, ghostwritten essays, represents a “wicked problem,” said John Shields, deputy dean of the University of Sydney’s business school. “It’s deep and embedded and it’s hard to catch and kill,” he said. “In one sense, ghostwriting has emerged as an area of key concern in academic honesty because many universities are using a first-line defense in terms of [text matching software], and the simple plagiarism approach being detectable has forced those who, for whatever reason, choose to engage in dishonest conduct, to go one level deeper.” '

No doubt there will be a lot of finger pointing and tongue wagging. But are companies like these the real frauds? When millions of students are unable to do the work in courses for which they have been selected shouldn't we conclude that the entire admission process is flawed?

Why are there people capable of turning out essays and papers at a few hours or days notice not employed in universities? Doesn't this suggest that that there is a problem with the recruitment process?

Meanwhile the ghost writing virus seems to be spreading to graduate and faculty research. In the last few weeks I have received messages from Gulf Dissertation Online, which has "expertly helped and consulted PhD Professors, Lecturers and Scholars with their Thesis, Dissertations and Research Papers for over 12 Years" and Publish Pedia, which "is now offering a unique opportunity to Scholars and Professors who are pursuing their first publication ISI indexed journal or due to insufficient time not able to follow up on their new papers for publication to high impact factor top tier journals keeping the mandatory guidelines for ISI journal approved by the University"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The British Paradox Again

We have been told many times before that British universities are punching above their weight and are outperforming their international counterparts. Year after year they do extremely well in the QS and THE world rankings although perhaps not as well in the Shanghai ARWU.

This excellent performance is in glaring contrast to the well documented decline in the cognitive skills of young people in the United Kingdom. A recent publication from the OECD on youth, skills and employability  show that the proportion of 16-39 olds in the UK (actually England and Northern Ireland) with low literacy skills was well above the OECD average and slightly above the United States. Only Spain and Italy did worse. Not unexpectedly, the top performers here were Japan, Korea and Finland.

What is even more frightening is that the UK is very distinctive in that the proportion of 16-29 olds with poor literacy skills is lower than that of 30-54 years. In every other country except Japan, where literacy is very high among both groups,  and Norway, literacy has risen among the younger generation.

For numeracy skills of 16-29 year olds, the UK is again well below the OECD average. The share of young people with limited numeracy is higher than any other country except Italy and the US. Again there is a decline from the 30-54 year olds.

The OECD has also published data on problem solving abilities in technology-rich environments. This time the UK, like every country assessed, has improved over time but still is behind everyone else except  the US, Ireland and Poland.

So how can British students be so bad at literacy, numeracy and problem solving when the universities are, according to international rankers, so brilliant?

Some suggestions.

Perhaps, the rankings are biased towards British universities.

Perhaps, British higher education is highly differentiated with a few outstanding institutions that get high scores in the global league tables and a mass of others that cannot even squeeze into the 400s or 500s or do not even try.

Perhaps, it is just a question of time and in the next few years British universities will collapse under the weight of thousands of students with low cognitive skills who must be admitted to keep revenues flowing.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Why is Bogazici University considered so great in Turkey although it actually is at 400th position in the QS world rankings?

Another question from Quora.

The answer is that the QS rankings favour universities with an established reputation in those countries that are interested in rankings, those that have extensive international linkages, those with a lot of faculty and those with strengths in medical research.

In contrast, the Times Higher Education  (THE) rankings favour those powered by hadron driven citations and with the good fortune to be located in countries where most universities produce few citations.

What will happen if THE does reform its citations indicator?

Is The QS Computer Scence Ranking Accurate?

Ben Zhao, Professor at UC Santa Barbara, doesn't think so.

"There's a bunch of rankings, US News, Shanghai, US National Research Council, QS.  Of all of these, I would probably say that QS is one of the least useful. Why do I say that? I get SPAMMED on multiple email addresses to respond to a survey on QS university rankings.  I don't respond, and they just send more mail.  This is NOT the behavior of a reputable organization trying to gather a legitimate view of universities and their research quality.   ... "

I wouldn't disagree with him about the QS subject rankings, which outside the ranks of the world elite are based on very small samples of employers and academics and small numbers of citations. But it might be unfair to complain about being spammed all the time. This is probably happening because many universities are submitting his name to QS for the academic opinion survey.

As Oscar Wilde probably would have said the only thing worse than being spammed is not being spammed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

What do Indian Scientists do on Their Holidays?

The Indian Express has an interesting interview with the Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University, which Times Higher Education (THE), but nobody else, considers to be the best or second best university in India,  a feat achieved by an outstanding score for citations.

Here is an extract:

"Did the four-year period, 2010-2014, counted for the Times ranking include old research papers as well?Yes. It is not about papers that came out in this period but also the papers in which PU figures and which have a high citation. It is a mix of so many things. God particle came up in 2012. So, all those papers are being cited multiple times. Every theorist is cited. So, PU was already doing well, and discovery of God particle made it even better. When there was a lull and Fermilab was closed down for a while, and they were re-building CERN, PU and TIFR went on and joined the groups in B-factory in Japan.
The thing is that you have a job in the university, you have a job for life, you can decide to sleep, still you will get the salary. These professors at PU, or those at IIT-Guwahati, TIFR people, they are conscious that their productivity should not suffer. They should continuously be valued as a member of these collaborations. So, they keep working. So, when there is a holiday, when [other] people spend time here and there,what do High energy physicists do? Class khatam hoti hai. The next day they take a flight, and go to CERN or Chicago, and there they work hard. You are actually trying to make up for the time you could not do anything because you were doing teaching. That is how international faculty values them also, and they are continuously being included."
So, the Vice-Chancellor is aware that it is the CERN project that is cause of PU's ranking success. It will be interesting to see what happens if THE does bite the unpleasant tasting bullet and introduce fractionated counting of citations.
But if PU and other Indian institutions continue to improve, even if there is a (temporary?) dip in the THE rankings, then the key to that success may be here. Indian scientists can draw  a salary while sleeping if they want but they can also go to Switzerland and discover the fundamental particles of the universe if so inclined. Increasingly, western scientists are apparently expected to spend their days and nights filling out forms, applying for grants, writing teaching philosophies, attending sexual harassment seminars, making safe spaces all over the place, undergoing diversity sensitivity training and so on and so on.

Friday, May 29, 2015

University Ranking Challenge: Your starter for 5,154

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, has indicated that the publication of a paper from the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider project is a challenge for rankers.

The paper in question has a total of 5,154 authors, if that is the right word, with sole or primary affiliation to 344 institutions. Of those authors 104 have a secondary affiliation. One is deceased. Under THE's current methodology every institution contributing to the paper will get credit for all the citations that the paper will receive, which is very likely to run into the thousands.

For the elite universities  participating in these projects a few thousand citations will make little or no difference. But for for a small specialised institution or a large one that does little research, those citations spread out over a few hundred papers could make a big difference.

In last year's rankings places like Florida Institute of Technology, Universite Marrakesh Cadi Ayyad, Morroco, Federico Santa Maria Technical University, Chile, Bogazici University, Turkey, got implausibly high scores for citations that were were well ahead of those for the other criteria.

The paper in question does set a record for the number of contributors although the challenge is not particularly new.

At a seminar in Moscow earlier this year, Baty suggested that THE, now independent of Thomson Reuters, was considering using fractionated counting, dividing all the citations among the contributing institutions.

This would be an excellent idea and should be technically quite feasible since CWTS at Leiden University use it as their default option.

But there would be a a price to pay. The current methodology allows THE to boast that it has found a way of uncovering hitherto unnoticed pockets of excellence. It is also a selling point in THE's imperial designs of expanding into regions where there has so far been little interest in ranking, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, the BRICS. A few universities in those regions could make a splash in the rankings if they recruited, even as an adjunct, a researcher working on the LHC project.

It would be most welcome if THE does start using fractionated counting in its citation indication. Also welcome would be some other changes: not counting self-citation, reducing the weighting for the indicator, including several different methods of evaluating research impact or quality, and, especially important, getting rid of the "regional modification" that awards a bonus for being located in a low scoring country.

Friday, May 22, 2015

An Experiment Using LinkedIn Data to Rank Arab Universities

University World News recently published an article by Rahul Choudaha suggesting that LinkedIn is the future of global rankings. At the moment that sounds a bit exaggerated and LinkedIn in its present form may be gone in a decade but he could be on to something.

Leaving Europe, North America and East Asia aside, the reliability of institutional data is very low and that makes serious evaluation of graduate outcomes, staff quality, income, teaching resources and so on extremely difficult.

This problem is especially acute for the Middle East and North Africa region where there appears to be a big demand for university rankings but little accurate information. The consequence has been some highly implausible results in the rankings attempted so far. Last year THE produced a "snapshot"of a ranking indicator which put Texas A&M Qatar as the top university for research impact.and QS's pilot rankings have the American University of Sharjah in joint first place for academic reputation, Al-Nahrain University top for faculty student ratio and Khalifa University top for papers per faculty.

So, here is a list of Arab universities ordered by the number of students or professionals putting them on the Decision Board, indicating an interest in attending Counting was done on the 14th of May.

If this approximates to reputation among students and the public then it seems that Egyptian universities have been undervalued n previous ranking exercises.

RankUniversityCountryInterested in attending
1  Helwan UniversityEgypt422
2American University in CairoEgypt394
3Arab Academy of Science, Technology and
Maritime Transport
4  Cairo University Egypt353
5Ain Shams UniversityEgypt245
6Alexandria UniversityEgypt230
7King Fahd University of Petroleum and MineralsSaudi Arabia211
8American University of BeirutLebanon193
9École Nationale Polytechnique d'AlgerAlgeria184
10King Saud UniversitySaudi Arabia138
11Lebanese American UniversityLebanon133
12American University in DubaiUAE131
13Qatar UniversityQatar102
14American University of SharjahUAE91
15King Abdullah University of Science and TechnologySaudi Arabia  85
16=Al Azhar UniversityEgypt78
16=University of DubaiUAE78
18Damascus UniversitySyria73
19University of DammamSaudi Arabia70
20=Mansoura Univerdity Egypt68
20=Houari Boumediene University of Science and
22UAE UniversityUAE62
23Higher Colleges of TechnologyUAE58
24=Tanta UniversityEgypt51
24=German University in CairoEgypt51
26Zagazig UniversityEgypt50
27=Suez Canal UniversityEgypt43
27=King Abdulaziz UniversitySaudi Arabia43
27=Umm Al-Qura UniversitySaudi Arabia43
30=Abu Dhabi UNiversityUAE33
30=Ajman University of Science & TechnologyUAE33
32Assiut UniversitEgypt32
33Université Mentouri de ConstantineAlgeria27
34Université LibanaiseLebanon26
35Al-Imam Mohamed Ibn Saud
Islamic University
Saudi Arabia23
36Université Saad Dahlab BlidaAlgeria22
37Prince Sultan UniversitySaudi Arabia21
38=King Faisal UniversitySaudi Arabia20
38=Université Mouloud Mammeri de Tizi OuzoAlgeria20
40Université Badji Mokhtar de AnnabaAlgeria19
41Khalifa UniversityUAE19
42=Université de BatnaAlgeria18
42=Université Cadi Ayyad MarrakechMorocco18
44=King Khalid UniversitySaudi Arabia17
44=Sanaa UniversityYemen17
46University of BejaiaJordan16
47=Zayed UniversityUAE14
47=Université Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Morocco14
49=Masdar Intiute of Science and TechnologyUAE13
49=Université d'OranAlgeria13
51=Yarmouk UniversityJordan12
51=Universite de Tunis El ManarTunisia12
53=Texas A&M QatarQater11
53=University of SharjahUAE11
53=Minia UniversityEgypt11
53=University of TunisTunisia11
53=Universite de MonastirTunisia11
58=University of JordanJordan10
58=Benha UniversityEgypt10
58=University of BahrainBahrain10
61Taif UniversitySaudi Arabia0
62Kuwait UniversityKuwait0
63University of BaghdadIraq0
64University of KhartoumSudan0
65Jordan University of Science and TechnologyJordan0
66Mosul UniversityIraq0
67Qassim UniversitySaudi Arabia0
68Taibah UniversitySaudi Arabia0
69Hashemite UniversityJordan0
70Université Abou Bekr Belkaid TlemcenAlgeria0
71Al Balqa Applied UniversityAlgeria0
72Babylon UniversityIraq0
73South Valley UniversityEgypt0
74Meoufia UniversityEgypt0
75Fayoum UniversityEgypt0
76Sohag UniversityEgypt0
77Beni-Suef UniversityEgypt0
78Jazan UniversitySaudi Arabia0
79Universite de SfaxTunisia0
80Al Nahrain UniversityIraq0
81University of BasrahIraq0
82King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for
Health Sciences
Saudi Arabia0
83Université Mohammed V AgdalMorocco0
84Alfaisal UniversitySaudi Arabia0
85Arabian Gulf UniversityBahrain0
86=Petroleum Institute Abu DhabiUAE0
86=National Engineering School of SfaxTunisia0
88Mutah UniversityJordan0
89Kafrelsheikh UniversityEgypt0
90Université de Carthage (7 de Novembre)Tunisia0
91University of BalamandLebanon0
92Beirut Arab UniversityLebanon0
93Université Hassan II MohammadiaMorocco0
94Universite de SousseTunisia0
95Université Abdelmalek EssaadiMorocco0
96Petra UniversityJordan0
97Djillali Liabes UniversityAlgeria0
98Université Ferhat Abbas SetifAlgeria0
99Princess Sumaya University for TechnologyJordan0
100Université de la ManoubaTunisia0
101Université Ibn Tofail KénitraMorocco0
102Université Saint Joseph de BeyrouthLebanon0
103Université de GabesTunisia0
104Université Mohammed Premier OujdaMorocco0
105Mohamed Boudiaf University of Science
and Technology
106Sultan Qaboos UniversityOman0

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to improve your total Contribution in the academic caldener.

I have received several invitations over the last few months to let a team of consultants write up my research and get me into an ISI or Scopus journal. The most recent was from something called Prime Journal Consultants. It is hard to believe that anyone could be so naive as to pay money to someone who writes so badly but who knows? Maybe Chris Olsen has got a doctorate now.

Or maybe standards at Scopus and Thomson Reuters journals are not what they used to be.

Anyway, here is the first part of the message.

"The Most valuable part of your research is the data and study that you have already conducted, its time now to use the study and with our expert assistance create a complete research paper out of it and get it published to the highest impact factor ISI or Scopus Indexed journals to earn Recognition and Promotion.

The Contribution of Research Article Publishing Towards your Promotion
Publication is both a measure of a scholar’s knowledge and also a benchmark for academic success. The minimum percentage for promotion in terms of Research Publication is at least 35-40% of your total Contribution in the academic caldener.

Common Misconception About ISI publishing -Book A Dedicated Consultant Today
ISI Publishing is a time consuming process, The Genuine ISI journals would take time after getting you through rigorous revisions and edits. That is where our Dedicated Consultants Come in to assist you take you through theentire steps to get you an ISI acceptance."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The March of Pseudoscience Stumbles a BIt

Pseudoscience continues to thrive in the West. Although -- I think -- no longer offered by universities, homeopathy is still viewed with favour by many in the British establishment, including the Prince of Wales, and has received official recognition in Canada.

Meanwhile in Malaysia Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) has produced an anti-hysteria kit consisting of things like chopsticks,  lime, salt, vinegar and pepper spray, which will repel evil spirits. The kit sells for Ringgit 8,750, which includes training and technical support

The Malaysian religious authorities have been more sceptical than the British royal family and treated the kits with derision. UMP has replied by claiming the kit was based on scientific research, although it has not said where the research was published

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Geography of Excellence: the Importance of Weighting

So finally, the 2015 QS subject rankings were published. It seems that the first attempt was postponed when the original methodology produced implausible fluctuations, probably resulting from the volatility that is inevitable when there are a small number of data points -- citations and survey responses -- outside the top 50 for certain subjects.

QS have done some tweaking, some of it aimed at smoothing out the fluctuations in the responses to their academic and employer surveys.

These rankings look at bit different from the World University Rankings. Cambridge has the most top ten placings (31), followed by Oxford and Stanford (29 each), Harvard (28), Berkeley (26) and MIT (16).

But in the world rankings MIT is in first place, Cambridge second, Imperial College London third, Harvard fourth and Oxford and University College London joint fifth.

The subject rankings use two indicators from the world, the academic survey and the employer survey but not internationalisation, student faculty ratio and citations per faculty. They add two indicators, citations per paper and h-index.

The result is that the London colleges do less well in the subject rankings since they do not benefit from their large numbers of international students and faculty. Caltech, Princeton and Yale also do relatively badly probably because the new rankings do not take account of their low faculty student faculty ratios.

The lesson of this is that if weighting is not everything, it is definitely very important.

Below is a list of universities ordered by the number of top five placings. There are signs of the Asian advance --  Peking, Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore -- but it is an East Asian advance.

Europe is there too but it is Cold Europe -- Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden -- not the Mediterranean.

RankUniversityCountryNumber of Top Five Places
1   HarvardUSA26
4   StanfordUSA17
5=UC BerkeleyUSA16
7London School of EconomicsUK7
8=University College LondonUK3
8=ETH ZurichSwitzerland 3
10=New York UniversityUSA2
10=Yale  USA2
10=Delft University of TechnologyNetherlands2
10=National University of SingaporeSingapore2
10=UC Los AngelesUSA2
10=UC DavisUSA2
10=Cornell USA2
10=Wisconsin - MadisonUSA2
10=Imperial College LondonUK2
20=University of Southern California USA1
20=Pratt Institute, New YorkUSA1
20=Rhode Island School of DesignUSA1
20=Parsons: the New School for Design USA1
20=Royal College of Arts LondonUK1
20=Sciences PoFrance1
20=University of PennsylvaniaUSA1
20=London Business SchoolUK1
20=Royal Veterinary College LondonUK1
20=UC San FranciscoUSA1
20=Johns  HopkinsUSA1
20=KU LeuvenUSA1
20=Hong KongHong Kong1
20=Karolinska InstituteSweden1
20=Carnegie Mellon UniversityUSA1
20=Georgia Institute ofTechnologyUSA1

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Are all subjects the same?

University rankers seem to be moving towards the field  normalization of citations data. In 2010 Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters started using it for their world rankings. The scores for citations did not reflect the absolute number of citations or even citations per paper or per faculty but citations per paper in relation to the world average for 250 fields. Normalisation by year of citation was added to the process. I have heard that QS is considering normalization by five subject groups. Meanwhile THE has switched to Scopus as a data source and they apparently have 300 fields.

This is justified by the claim that it is unfair that an outstanding paper in history or philosophy should be given the same value as a mediocre one in medicine or physics, something that could happen if only the number of citations were counted.  Perhaps, but that assumes that all subjects are equal even if society values them differently and provides more money for some fields and even if they require different levels of cognitive ability.

The website The Tab provides evidence from the Complete Universities Guide (still searching for the original data) that in the UK there are substantial differences in the grades required by universities for various subjects.

The five most difficult subjects measured by points for grades (Advanced level A = 120) are:

Chemical Engineering

The least difficult are:

Business and Management
Accounting and Finance
American Studies

This is for undergraduate education in the UK. Looking at future majors of GRE test takers in the US we find something similar Philosophers, physicists and economists are very much brighter than future accountants, social workers, education specialists and public administrators. Engineers perform poorly for verbal aptitude but better for mathematical aptitude. See here and here.

Does it make sense that the average paper in a demanding discipline like physics or philosophy should be treated as exactly the same as the average paper in education or sociology?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

They'll be doing Gourmet Nights next

I have just received an invitation for the Dublin Young Universities Summit on the 29th of this month. It is remarkably restrained: 'prestigious' appears' only three times, 'exclusive' four times and 'distinguished" once.

"...EXCLUSIVE a prestigious networking dinner and world class speakers ... A Rankings masterclass with Phil Baty ..."

"We would be honoured if you would register to attend this prestigious event..."

"Distinguished speakers include..."

"In addition, the event will feature:
  • Prestigious networking dinner 
  • An exclusive rankings masterclass with Mr Phil Baty"
"Because of the summit’s exclusive nature, places are strictly limited..."

"Your ticket will include*:
  • Prestigious welcome dinner
  • An exclusive rankings masterclass with Mr Phil Baty, editor at large and rankings editor, THE
  • World-class speakers
  • 2 x Networking lunches
  • Scheduled transfers between the official hotel and the university venues
  • Closing networking drinks reception"

MENA universities and Google Scholar Results

For reference purposes only, here are the Google Scholar Results (all documents) taken on April 4th for all universities included in any of the Arab Region/MENA rankings produced by US News, QS or Times Higher Education. Time period was 2010-2014.

Rank University Country Google Scholar
1   Cairo University Egypt 19,100
2 King Saud University Saudi Arabia 17,200
3 King Abdulaziz University  Saudi Arabia 15,800
4   Ain Shams University   Egypt 15,500
5 American University of Beirut   Lebanon 12,700
6 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Saudi Arabia  11,000
7 Alexandria University Egypt 10,500
8 University of Jordan Jordan 9,700
9 Al Azhar University Egypt 9,480
10 King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Saudi Arabia 9,180
11 American University in Cairo Egypt 9,080
12 Mansoura University Egypt 8,790
13 Zagazig University Egypt 8,410
14 Assiut University Egypt 7,600
15 Sultan Qaboos University Oman 7,410
16 Kuwait University Kuwait 7,040
17 University of Baghdad Iraq 6,960
18 University of Khartoum Sudan 5,910
19 Qatar University Qatar 5,430
20 Suez Canal University Egypt 5,340
21 Tanta University Egypt 5,030
22 University of Sharjah UAE 5,020
23 United Arab Emirates University UAE 4,690
24 Helwan University Egypt 4,200
25 King Khalid University Saudi Arabia 4,110
26 Yarmouk University Jordan 4,100
27 Jordan University of Science and Technology Jordan 4,040
28 Taif University Saudi Arabia 3,530
29 Minia University Egypt 3,500
30 Benha University Egypt 3,400
31 American University of Sharjah UAE 3,150
32 University of Tunis Tunisia 3,130
33 King Faisal University Saudi Arabia 3,090
34 University of Mosul Iraq 2,820
35= Qassim University Saudi Arabia 2,770
35= Taibah University Saudi Arabia 2,770
37 Hashemite University Jordan 2,650
38 Umm Al-Qura University Saudi Arabia 2,610
39 Université Abou Bekr Belkaid Tlemcen Algeria 2,370
40 Al Balqa' Applied University Jordan 2,330
41 University of Babylon Iraq 2,250
42 South Valley University Egypt 2,240
43 Lebanese American University Lebanon 2,170
44 Menoufia University Egypt 2,120
45 Damascus University Syria 2,060
46 Fayoum University Egypt 1,970
47 University of Bahrain Bahrain 1,940
48= Khalifa University UAE 1,890
48= Sohag University Egypt 1,890
50 Beni-Suef University Egypt 1,770
51 Jazan University Saudi Arabia 1,750
52 Universite de Sfax Tunis 1,740
53 Al Nahrain University Iraq 1,710
54 Zayed University UAE 1,690
55 University of Basrah Iraq 1,560
56 King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences Saudi Arabia 1,520
57 Masdar Institute of Science and Technology UAE 1,470
58 Université Mohammed V Agdal Morocco 1,450
59 Université d'Oran Algeria 1,370
60 University of Damman Saudi Arabia 1,300
61 Universite de Tunis El Manar Tunisia 1,270
62 German University in Cairo Egypt 1,210
63 Alfaisal University Saudi Arabia 1,200
64 Universite des Sciences et da la Technologie Houari Boumediene Algeria 1,160
65 Sanaa University Yemen 1,140
66 Université Libanaise Lebanon 1,100
67 Arabian Gulf University Bahrain 1,030
68 Petroleum Institute Abu Dhabi UAE 948
69 National Engineering School of Sfax Tunisia 872
70 Mutah University Jordan 826
71 Kafrelsheikh University Egypt 825
72 Université de Batna Algeria 818
73 Universite de Monastir Tunisia 757
74 Université de Carthage (7 de Novembre) Tunisia 754
75 Higher Colleges of Technology UAE 726
76 University of Balamand Lebanon 673
77 Beirut Arab University Lebanon 662
78 Abu Dhabi University UAE 627
79 Université Cadi Ayyad Marrakech Morocco 588
80 Arab Academy of Science Technology and Maritime Transport Egypt 585
81 Université Hassan II Mohammadia Morocco 559
82 Universite de Sousse Tunisia 531
83 Université Mentouri de Constantine Algeria 527
84 Université Abdelmalek Essaadi Morocco 509
85 University of Bejaia Jordan 508
86= Petra University Jordan 506
86= Université Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah Morocco 506
88 Prince Sultan University Saudi Arabia 469
89 Djillali Liabes University Algeria 464
90 Université Ferhat Abbas Setif Algeria 462
91 University of Dubai UAE 437
92 Université Mouloud Mammeri de Tizi Ouzo Algeria 427
93 Princess Sumaya University for Technology Jordan 417
94 Université de la Manouba Tunisia 412
95 Université Ibn Tofail Kénitra Morocco 403
96 American University in Dubai UAE 364
97 Al-Imam Mohamed Ibn Saud Islamic University Saudi Arabia 257
98 Université Saint Joseph de Beyrouth Lebanon 246
99 Université de Gabes Tunisia 208
100 Université Mohammed Premier Oujda Morocco 193
101 École Nationale Polytechnique d'Alger Algeria 184
102 Ajman University of Science & Technology UAE 142
103 Texas A&M Qatar Qatar 111
104 UST  d'Oran Mohamed Boudiaf Algeria 107
105 Université Saad Dahlab Blida Algeria 70
106 Université Badji Mokhtar de Annaba Algeria 54

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

QS Subject Rankings out on 29th

QS have redesigned their subject ranking methodology and will release the revised results on April 29th. The modifications are:

  • reintroducing regional weightings in the academic and employer surveys

  • ·counting articles in all the subjects to which they are assigned

  • adjusting weightings usually to increase those for citations and h- index and reducing those     for the surveys

  • increasing  the minimum number of papers required for inclusion in the rankings

  • extending survey samples to 5 years.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Secrecy and Mystery: New Ranking Indicators

The South China Morning Post provides an explanation why some Chinese universities may not be doing well in the global rankings.

"If you are a student of science or engineering looking for a “thrilling” exchange programme in China, this may be the right place for you. The universities on the list below enjoy high reputations in China and they all accept overseas students, but they rarely publish papers in international journals due to the sensitivity of their research, so you may not easily find their names on most world university rankings. If you visit them, don’t be misled by the peaceful and friendly atmosphere on campus. The old professor riding a dusty bike with fatherly smile and silvery hair along your way to class could be chairing the development of China’s most deadly space weapons."

If you want to know the five most secret and mysterious universities in China, go here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ranking MENA Universities

Interest in the ranking of Arab and/or Middle Eastern and North African universities seems to be growing. There is definitely  a feeling  in many countries that higher education needs drastic reform and should open up to objective evaluation. Of course, there is also a realisation that rankings can be helpful for marketing and career advancement.

But there are problems. Most Arab universities do not have sufficient staff and organisation  to provide adequate data about  faculty and student numbers, let alone about things like employment of graduates or sources of income. Surveys are a possible source of information. for teaching quality but it is unlikely that at present they could produce reliable and accurate information.

The collection of data about research has probably reached the point where reasonable research rankings can be created for the Arab world and also for regions like South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, the majority of Arab or Middle Eastern universities  produce very little significant research so such research based rankings would probably be of relevance to about fifty institutions.

See Higher Education Strategy Associates for more discussion.

The US News has produced a variation on its new Best Global Universities rankings. This is based on research and citations data from the Scopus database. As a ranking of universities according to research output and impact, it looks quite plausible.

The top five universities are:

1. King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
2. King Abdulaziz University,Saudi Arabia
3. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia
4. Cairo University, Egypt
5. American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

QS has produced rankings that are "a pilot version of the ranking that has been developed to reflect priorities and challenges for universities in the region."

The top five are:

1. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia
2. American University of Beirut, Lebanon
3. King Saud University, Saudi Arabia
4. American University of Cairo, Egypt
5. King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia.

This is a bit different from the US News rankings but the QS table does include indicators like faculty student ration, web impact and international faculty and students.

Times Higher Education has produced what it calls a "snapshot", which is in fact only one indicator, citations per paper normalised by field and year. The top five are:

1.  Texas A&M University Qatar
2.  Lebanese American University
3.  King Abdulaziz University,Saudi Arabia
4.  Qatar University
5.  American University in Beirut.

Texas A&M Qatar is a single subject branch campus which does not have a doctoral programme. It is difficult to believe that it will actually be in the full rankings that are scheduled for next year. THE's top thirty does not include Cairo University or King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

As a simple check on the validity of these three rankings I have calculated their correlation with the results from a search of Google Scholar on the 4th of April. I have also included the scores for "publications" provided by THE next to their "snapshot" indicator.

There is a very strong correlation between the Google Scholar and the THE publication scores, a somewhat smaller correlation with the US News scores, which combine publication and citation data and a moderate correlation with the QS scores, which include web impact, internationalisation and institutional data.

There is no significant correlation with the THE citation indicator. In fact, this "snapshot" correlates with nothing, not even THE's own publication data.


Google Scholar USN QS THE "snapshot" THE publications
Google Scholar
.757**       .000
.570**            .000
USN .757**

QS 570**

THE snapshot .075

THE publications .852**

A Fictional, but Honest, College Rejection Letter

By Mimi Evans

Posted at Timothy MacSweeney's Blog

"Dear Applicant,

The Admissions Committee has carefully considered your application and we regret to inform you that we will not be able to offer you admission in the entering class of 2015, or a position on one of our alternate lists. The applicant pool this year was particularly strong, and by that I mean the Admissions Committee once again sent candidates like you multiple enticing pamphlets encouraging you to apply, knowing full well we had no intention of accepting you.

However, you will be pleased to know that you have contributed to our declining admissions rate, which has helped our university appear exclusive. This allows us to attract our real candidates: upper-class kids and certified geniuses who will glean no new information from our courses or faculty, whose parents can incentivize us with a new swimming pool or lacrosse stadium."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

QS Subject Rankings Postponed

From the QS topuniversities site

The planned publication of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 has been postponed for the next few weeks.
In 2015, we have introduced minor methodological refinements which have allowed for improved discrimination, particularly among specialist institutions that are now featuring more materially in our work.  Our new subjects for this year include several - such as Veterinary Sciences, Art & Design, Architecture, Dentistry, Business & Management Studies – that are delivered by single-faculty institutions as well as large, comprehensive universities.
We approach our work with passion, dedication, integrity and a strong sense of responsibility. In response to feedback, we have decided to extend the consultation process, to fully articulate the methodological refinements of the QS World University Rankings by Subject.
Please check back on for details on the revised release date of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Malaysia and the Rankings: The Saga Continues

Malaysia has had a long and complicated relationship with global rankings ever since that wonderful moment in 2004 when the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) -- Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, as they were then, put Universiti Malaya (UM), the country's oldest institution, in the top 100 universities of the world.

It turned out that UM was only in the top 100 because of a ridiculous error by data gatherers QS who counted ethnic Indians and Chinese as international and so boosted the score for the international faculty and international student indicators. This was followed in 2005 by the correction of the error, or "clarification of data" as THES put it, and UM's extraordinary fall out of the top 100, often explained by higher education experts as a change in methodology.

There was another fall in 2007 when QS introduced several methodological changes including the use of z scores, that is calibrating scores against the indicator means, and prohibiting survey respondents from voting for their own universities.

In 2009 UM made something of a recovery rising from 230th in the Times Higher Education (the Supplement bit was dropped in 2008) charts to 180th, largely because of an increase in the number of faculty and a reduction in the number of students reported to QS.

In 2010 THE and QS went their separate ways, publishing their own rankings with different methodologies. UM dropped out of the top 200 of the QS rankings but was back again in 2011 and  has now reached 151st place. It has stayed clear of the THE World University Rankings, which require the annual resubmission of data.

Every time UM or any of the other Malaysian universities rises or falls, it becomes a political issue. Ascent is seen as proof of the strength of Malaysian higher education, decline is the result of policy failures.

Recently, the Malaysian second Minister for Education argued that Malaysian higher education was now world class and on a par with countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia because of its improved performance in the QS rankings and because it had attracted 135,000 foreign students.

Not everyone was impressed by this. Opposition MP Tony Pua criticised the reliance on the QS rankings, saying that they had been condemned by prominent academics such as Simon Marginson and that UM was not ranked by THE and performed much less well in the other rankings such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The minister has riposted by noting that four Malaysian researchers were included in Thomson Reuters' list of influential scientific minds and that UM had been given five stars by QS.

So, who's right about  Malaysian higher education?

First, Tony Pua is quite right about the inadequacies of the QS world rankings. It can be unstable since the number of universities included in the rankings changes from year to year and this can affect the scores for each indicator. Many of the scores for the objective indicators such as faculty student ratio and international students seem exaggerated and appear to have had a bit of massaging somewhere along the line.

The biggest problem with the QS rankings is the academic and employer  reputation surveys. These collect data from a variety of sources, have low response rates and are very volatile. They include respondents whose names are submitted by universities and those who nominate themselves. There were some suspiciously high scores for the  academic reputation indicator in 2014: Peking University in 19th place, National Taiwan University in 37th, University of Buenos Aires in 52nd and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in 78th.

The employer survey also produces some counter-intuitive results: Universitia Commerciale Luigi Bocconi in 33rd place, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in 60th, the American University of Beirut in 85th and Universidiad de los Andes in 98th.

The QS world rankings can therefore be considered a poor reflection of overall quality.

Some critics have asserted that the THE rankings are superior and that Malaysian universities are being evasive by staying away from them. It is true that  THE  have won the approval of the British political and educational establishment. David Willetts, former universities and science minister, has joined the advisory board of  THE's parent company. THE has highlighted comments on its recent reputation rankings by Greg Clark, universities, science and cities minister, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary and Wendy Piatt, director of the Russell Group of research intensive universities.

However, more informed and observers such as Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates and Isidro Aguillo of the Cybermetrics Lab have little regard for these rankings.

Even Simon Marginson, who has moved to the London Institute of Education, now accepts that they are "fatally flawed once outside the top 50 universities".

The THE rankings have some serious methodological flaws. They assign a 33% weighting to a reputation survey. After the top six universities the number of responses drops off rapidly. After we leave the top 100 the number of votes on the survey is small and so it is quite normal for a few additional responses to have a disproportionate effect on the indicator scores and consequently on overall scores. QS does give an even greater weighting for reputation -- 50% -- but reduces annual fluctuations by carrying over responses for a further two years if they are not updated. The new Best Global Universities produced by US News takes a five year average of their reputation scores.

In addition, the THE rankings assign a 30 % weighting to their Citations: Research Impact indicator which  is constructed so that it allows contributions to publications, usually in physics , astronomy or medicine, with hundreds of contributing institutions to give a university an undeserved score for citations. Since its beginning, the THE rankings have  shown bizarre results for research impact by putting places like Alexandria University, Moscow State Engineering Physics Institute, Federico Santa Maria Technical University in Valparaiso and the University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad in the top ranks of the world for research impact.

Yes, QS putting Tsinghua  University in overall 47th place is questionable (the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities has it in 101-150 band)  but on balance this is more plausible than putting, as THE does, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in 63rd place (Shanghai has it in the 301-400 band)

The only situation in which it would make sense for UM to take part in the THE rankings would be if it was going to start a first rate particle physics programme including participation in the Large Hadron Collider project with multi-author publications that would bring in thousands of citations.

Rather than relying on the questionable QS and THE rankings, it would be a good idea to look at the progress of UM according to the less well known but technically competent research-based rankings. The Scimago Institution Rankings show that in a ranking of higher education institutions by research output  UM was in 718th place in 2009.  Since then it has risen to 266th place, behind 16 British (out of 189), 15 German and seven Australian universities and institutes.

This is similar to the CWTS Leiden Ranking which has UM in 270th place for number of publications (calculated with default settings) or the Shanghai rankings, where Nobel prizes are indicators, which place it in the 301-400 band.

This does not necessarily mean that there has been similar progress in graduate employability or in the quality of research. It does, however, mean that for research output Universiti Malaya, and maybe two or three other Malaysian universities, are now competitive with second tier universities in Britain and Germany.

This is probably not quite what most people mean by world-class but it is not impossible that in a decade UM could, if it sticks to current policies, be the rival of universities like Sheffield, Cardiff or Leeds.

But such progress depends on Malaysian universities focussing on their core missions and not falling into the quagmire of mission creep.

It also depends on something being done to remedy the very poor performance of Malaysian secondary schools. If that does not happen then the future of Malaysian higher education and the Malaysian economy could be very bleak.