Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What about a Research Influence Ranking?

Keeping up with the current surge of global university rankings is becoming next to impossible. Still there are  a few niches that have remained unoccupied. One might be a ranking of universities according to their ability to spread new knowledge around the world. So it might be a good idea to have a Research Influence Ranking based on the citations indicator in the Times Higher Education -- Thomson Reuters World University Rankings.

Thomson Reuters are the world's leading collectors and analysts of citations data so such an index ought to provide invaluable data source for governments, corporations and other stakeholders deciding where to place research funding. Data for 400 universities can be found on the THE iPhone/iPad app.

The top place in the world would be jointly held by Rice University in Texas and Moscow State Engineering Physics Institute, closely followed by MIT and the University of California Santa Cruz.

Then there are the first places in various regions and counties. (MEPhI would be first in Europe and Rice in the US and North America.)

University of Toronto

Latin America
University of the Andes, Colombia

United Kingdom (and Western Europe)
Royal Holloway London

University of Cape Town

Middle East
Koc University, Turkey

Asia (and Japan)
Tokyo Metropolitan University

King Mongkut's University of Technology, Thailand

Australia and the Pacific
University of Melbourne

On second thoughts, perhaps not such a good idea.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bad Mood Rising

In 2006 I tried to get an article published in the Education section of the Guardian, that fearless advocate of radical causes and scourge of the establishment, outlining the many flaws and errors in the Times Higher Education Supplement -- Quacquarelli Symonds (as they were then) World University Rankings, especially its "peer review". Unfortunately, I was told that they would be wary of publishing an attack on a direct rival. That was how University Ranking Watch got started.

Since then QS and Times Higher Education have had an unpleasant divorce, with the latter now teaming up with Thomson Reuters. New rankings have appeared, some of them to rapidly disappear -- there was one from Wuhan and another from Australia but they seem to have vanished. The established rankings are spinning off subsidiary rankings at a bewildering rate.

As the higher education bubble collapses in the West everything is getting more competitive including rankings and everybody -- except ARWU -- seems to be getting rather bad-tempered.

Rankers and academic writers are no longer wary about "taking a pop" at each other. Recently, there has been an acrimonious exchange between Ben Sowter of QS and Simon Marginson of Melbourne University. This has gone so far as to include the claim that QS has used the threat of legal action to try to silence critics.

"[Ben] Sowter [of QS] does not mention that his company has twice threatened publications with legal action when publishing my bona fide criticisms of QS. One was The Australian: in that case QS prevented my criticisms from being aired. The other case was University World News, which refused to pull my remarks from its website when threatened by QS with legal action.

If Sowter and QS would address the points of criticism of their ranking and their infamous star system (best described as 'rent a reputation'), rather than attacking their critics, we might all be able to progress towards better rankings. That is my sole goal in this matter. As long as the QS ranking remains deficient in terms of social science, I will continue to criticise it, and I expect others will also continue to do so."

Meanwhile the Leiter Reports has a letter from "a reader in the UK".

THES DID drop QS for methodological reasons. The best explanation is here: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/03/15/baty
But there may have been more to it? Clearly QS's business practices leave an awful lot to be desired. See: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280094547/Quacquarelli-Symonds-pays-80000-for-using-unlicensed-software
Also I understand that the "S" from QS -- Matt Symonds -- walked out on the company due to exasperation with the business practices.  He has been airbrushed from QS history, but can be foud at:  https://twitter.com/SymondsGSB
And as for the reputation survey, there was also this case of blantant manipulation: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/04/08/irish-university-tries-recruit-voters-improve-its-international-ranking
And of course there's the high-pressure sales: http://www.theinternationalstudentrecruiter.com/how-to-become-a-top-500-university/
And the highly lucrative "consultancy" to help universities rise up the rankings: http://www.iu.qs.com/projects-and-services/consulting/
There are "opportunities" for branding -- a snip at just $80,000 -- with QS Showcase: http://qsshowcase.com/main/branding-opportunities/
Or what about some relaxing massage, or a tenis tournament and networking with the staff who compile the rankings: http://www.qsworldclass.com/6thqsworldclass/
Perhaps most distribing of all is the selling of dubious Star ratings: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/world/europe/31iht-educlede31.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Keep up the good work. Its an excellent blog.

All of this is true although I cannot get very excited about using pirated software and the bit about relaxing massage is rather petty -- I assume it is something to do with having a conference in Thailand. Incidentally, I don't think anyone from THE sent this since the reader refers to THES (The S for Supplement was removed in 2008).

This is all a long way from the days when journalists refused to take pops at their rivals, even when they knew the rankings were a bit rum.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Times Higher Education Under 50s Rankings

Times Higher Education has now published its ranking of universities less than fifty years old.

The top five are:

1.  Pohang University of Science and Technology
2.  EPF Lausanne
3.  Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
4.  Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
5.  University of California, Irvine

They are quite a bit different from the QS young universities rankings. In a while I hope to provide a detailed comparison.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Citation Cartels

An article by Paul Jump in Times Higher Education describes how Thomson Reuters have been excluding an increasing number of journals from their Journal Citation Reports for "anomalous citation patterns" which now includes not just self-citation but excessive mutual citation.

Surely it is now time for Thomson Reuters to stop counting self-citations for the Research Influence indicator in the THE World University Rankings. The threat of the self-citations of Dr El Naschie "of" Alexandria University has receded but there are others who would have a big impact on the rankings if they ever move to a university with a low volume of publications.

TR may not want to follow QS who no longer count citations for their rankings but excluding excessive mutual citation as well would put them one up again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Uncanny Insight into Ranker Psychology

I just said that QS would announce its Young University Rankings now that THE has indicated the launch date for its rankings at Wellington College next week.

Actually it was just a few hours.

Anyway, here are the top five.

1.   Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
2.   Nanyang Technological University
3.   Warwick
4.   KAIST
5.   City University of Hong Kong

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Prestigious Ranking Watch

Times Higher Education will be launching their Top 100 Under-50 Universities Rankings which, in case you have forgotten, is prestigious, at Wellington College, which is a school not a college, in another eight days.

Does anybody want to bet on the QS under-50 rankings appearing in a few days?

Meanwhile, the THE World Rankings will be published at the THE World Academic Summit in Singapore in October. See here. And yes, they are prestigious.

The QS Latin American Rankings

The QS Latin American Rankings show some interesting variations in methodology. The academic survey has a weight of 30%, compared to 40% in the World Rankings, and the employer survey a weight of 20%, compared to 10%.

Instead of 20% for citations per faculty there is 10% for papers per faculty and 10% for citations per paper. Since there are great variations according to the measures used to count research output and influence, as shown by the recent Leiden Ranking, this is very sensible.

Faculty-student ratio is reduced from 20% to 10% and international students and international faculty are removed. There is now 10% for proportion of staff with Ph Ds and 10% for web impact.

Here are the top five.

1.  Universidade de Sao Paulo
2.  Pontificia Universida Catolica de Chile
3.  Universidade Estadual de Campinas
4.  Universidad de Los Andes Colombia
5.  Universidad de Chile

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Global Gender Index

Times Higher Education has just published an article on the Global Gender Index produced in collaboration with Thomson Reuters. This consists of calculating the percentage of female academics among those universities included in the top 400 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and producing a percentage for each country.

This is a rather dubious exercise. The data is reported by the institutions themselves and, as the international unit of UK HE has pointed out, such data may not always be reliable. In addition, the universities that volunteer to be ranked by THE and Thomson Reuters may not necessarily be representative of the higher education sector in general. The global research orientated universities that make it into the top 400 may be even less so.

The report finds that everywhere women make up less than half the academic work force and that the numbers are lowest in Japan, followed by Taiwan. Numbers are nearly equal in Turkey.

Predictably, the article includes a call for universities to be ranked according to how far they have achieved gender equity among academic staff and a suggestion that East Asian countries should learn from Turkey.

There is a question that needs to be considered. If universities in countries like Taiwan and Japan are poised to overtake the West, as QS and THE are constantly warning us, should we be so eager to conclude that they have something, or indeed anything, to learn from Turkey or from Northern Europe?