Friday, May 11, 2018

Ranking Insights from Russia

The ranking industry is expanding and new rankings appear all the time. Most global rankings measure research publications and citations. Others try to add to the mix indicators that might have something to do with teaching and learning. There is now a  ranking that tries to capture various third missions.

The Round University Rankings published in Russia are in the tradition  of  holistic rankings. They give a 40 % weighting to research, 40 % to teaching, 10% to international diversity and 10% to financial sustainability. Each group contains five equally weighted indicators. The data is derived from Clarivate Analytics who also contribute to the US News Best Global Universities Rankings.

These rankings are similar to the THE rankings in that they attempt to assess quality rather than quantity but they have 20 indicators instead of 13 and assign sensible weightings. Unfortunately, they receive only a fraction of the attention given to the THE rankings.

They are, however, very  valuable since they dig deeper into the data than  other global rankings. They also show that there is a downside to measures of quality and that data submitted directly by institutions should be  treated with caution and perhaps scepticism.

Here are the top universities for each of the RUR indicators.

Academic staff per students: VIB (Flemish Institute of Biotechnology), Belgium
Academic staff per bachelor degrees awarded: University of Valladolid, Spain
Doctoral degrees per academic staff: Kurdistan University of Medical Science, Iran
Doctoral degrees per bachelor degrees awarded:  Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
World teaching reputation  Harvard University, USA.

Citations per academic and research staff: Harvard
Doctoral degrees per admitted PhD: Al Farabi Kazakh National University
Normalised citation impact: Rockefeller University, USA
Share of international co-authored papers: Free University of Berlin
World research reputation: Harvard.

International diversity
Share of international academic staff: American University of Sharjah, UAE
Share of international students: American University of Sharjah
Share of international co-authored papers: Innopolis University, Russia
Reputation outside region: Voronezh State Technical University, Russai
International Level: EPF Lausanne, Switzerland.

Financial sustainability:
Institutional income per academic staff: Universidade Federal Do Ceara, Brazil
Institutional income per student: Rockefeller University
Papers per research income:  Novosibersk State University of Economics and Management, Russia
Research income per academic and research staff: Istanbul Technical University, Turkey
Research income per institutional income: A C Camargo Cancer Center, Brazil.

There are some surprising results here. The most obvious is Voronezh State Technical University which is first for reputation outside its region (Asia, Europe and so on), even though its overall scores for reputation and for international diversity are very low. The other top universities for this metric are just what you would expect, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford and so on. I wonder whether there is some sort of bug in the survey procedure, perhaps something like the university's supporters being assigned to Asia and therefore out of region. The university is also in second place in the world for papers per research income despite very low scores for the other research indicators.

There are other oddities such as Novosibersk State University of Economics and Management placed first for papers per research income and Universidade Federal Do Ceara for institutional income per academic staff. These may result from anomalies in the procedures for reporting and analysing data, possibly including problems in collecting data on income and staff.

It also seems that medical schools and specialist or predominantly postgraduate institutions such as Rockefeller University, the Kurdistan University of Medical Science, Jawarhalal Nehru University and VIB have a big advantage with these indicators since they tend to have favourable faculty student ratios, sometimes boosted by large numbers of clinical and research only staff, and a large proportion of doctoral students.

Jawaharlal Nehru University is a mainly postgraduate university so a high placing for academic staff per bachelor degrees awarded is not unexpected although I am surprised that it is ahead of Yale and Princeton. I must admit that the third place here for the University of Baghdad needs some explanation.

The indicator doctoral degrees per admitted PhD might identify universities that do a good job of selection and training and get large numbers of doctoral candidates through the system. Or perhaps it identifies universities where doctoral programmes are so lacking in rigour that nearly everybody can get their degree once admitted. The top ten of this indicator includes De Montfort University, Shakarim University, Kingston University, and the University of Westminster, none of which are famous for research excellence across the range of disciplines.

Measures of international diversity have become a staple of global rankings since they are fairly easy to collect. The problem is that international orientation may have something do with quality but it may also simply be a necessary attribute of being in a small country next to larger countries with the same or similar language and culture. The top ten for the international student indicators includes the Central European University and the American university of Sharjah. For international faculty it includes the University of Macau and Qatar University.

To conclude, these indicators suggest that self submitted institutional data should be used sparingly and that data from third party sources may be preferable. Also, while ranking by quality instead of quantity is sometimes advisable it also means that anomalies and outliers are more likely to appear.


Anonymous said...

I spotted a few other surprising results in this year’s ranking:

* Chicago ranked second in the world.

* Imperial ranked first in the UK, six places ahead of Cambridge and eight places ahead of Oxford.

* Toronto ranked third in Canada, 20 places behind McGill.

* Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa ranked 21st in the world, 186 places ahead of the next-highest-ranked Italian university.

I think the above results are more “surprising” rather than “not credible”. More worryingly, many major universities are completely missing, including several which are often considered the best in their respective country:

* Copenhagen unranked, despite four other Danish universities being ranked.

* University of Hong Kong unranked, despite five other HK universities being ranked.

* Amsterdam unranked, despite ten other Dutch universities being ranked.

* Oslo unranked, despite three other Norwegian universities being ranked.

It appears RUR are reliant on universities providing data and if a university doesn’t it is excluded from the ranking. An inability to revert to publicly-available data in these circumstances seems like a critical weakness.

Salma Hayek said...

hmm great rankings
is there any Indian university in top 100 universities of world please reply