Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Shanghai Rankings: More Interesting This Year

The Shanghai rankings are usually the most stable and therefore the least interesting (for journalists, politicians and bureaucrat) of the current array.

This year, however, they are quite volatile. The reason for that is that the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy has completed the transition from the old to the new lists of highly cited researchers supplied by Thomson Reuters. In 2014 and 2015 they used both lists with an equal weighting which has reduced the abruptness of the transition. In addition, the rankings now count only primary affiliations. As a result there have been enough ascents and descents to gladden the hearts of higher education journalists and experts.

It should be noted that the effect of this is largely to accelerate trends that were in progress anyway. The old list was clearly out of date and it was time for a new one.

First, to my predictions. Harvard is still number one. Wisconsin at Madison, Rutgers and Virginia Polytechnic Institute have all fallen. Aalborg, Nanyang Technological University, Peking, Chiba and Tsinghua have risen. Peking and Tsinghua are now in the top 100 and heading for the top 50.

But the University of Tehran has not risen. It has fallen by 84 places, presumably because it lost a highly cited researcher during the second half of 2015.

Overall, the rankings provide more evidence for the rise of China with two universities in the top 100 and 54 in the top 500 compared with none and 44 last year, but not the rest of Asia. South Korea has gone from 12 in the top 500 to 11, Japan from 18 to 16 and Israel 6 to 5. India still has only one representative in the top 500 and Malaysia two.

Meanwhile the USA  now has 137 universities in the top 500 compared with 146  last year

Rapidly rising institutions include Toulouse School of Economics, from 375th to 265th, largely because of being given a free pass this year for papers in Nature and Science, University of the Witwatersrand from 244th to 204th, University of Queensland from 77th to 55th and , King Abdullah University of Science and technology from 352nd to 254th.

Kwazulu-Natal has fallen from 413th to 494th, Dartmouth College from 215th to 271st and Universiti Malaya from 353rd to 413th.

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