And now, the Times Higher Education rankings

Well, I did say that it was the rankings season. And here’s another, and perhaps the one most likely to be seen as definitive: the World University Rankings issued by the journal Times Higher Education. It’s hard to know whether to describe these as new or the latest in a series. Times Higher have been publishing rankings for a few years now, but previously these were prepared in collaboration with Quacquarelli Symonds. In 2009 they parted company with QS, and this year the Times Higher rankings have been prepared in collaboration with Thomson Reuters. The methodology used is different, and so it may be better to see this as a completely new exercise, rather than a new edition of the old one. In any case, QS have continued with their own rankings, as we noted last week.

Before getting to the actual outcomes, the following rather eccentric element should be noted. It had been announced before today that the Times Higher rankings would only list the top 200 global universities. And so indeed it is, and you can find the table here. However, they are also selling an iPhone app through iTunes, and with this (and only this) you can access the top 400. This allows us to list more of the Irish universities, because only two appear in the top 200, while a further three are in the 200-400 range.

Unlike the QS rankings last week, Times Higher has the United States leading the field. The top university is Harvard, and it is followed by four other US universities (though not Yale, which comes in at number 10). The top non-US universities are Cambridge and Oxford, coming in together at number 6=. The top non-US/UK university is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich at number 15. The top non-UK European Union university is France’s École Polytechnic at number 39. Overall, while there are a good few European Universities in the rankings, they are not challenging the US/UK dominance. Some Asian universities make make an appearance, as do Canadian and Australian ones.

And what about the Irish institutions? Here is the table:

TCD    76
UCD   94
UCC   243
NUI Galway  299
DCU    313
DIT   347

NUI Maynooth and the University of Limerick are not in the top 400.

So while Trinity College still leads the field, UCD is catching up. No Irish university has made it into the top 50. And as I have noted before, these positions are likely to slip further as the funding cuts start to bite even more.

And what’s next? The Sunday Times league table for Irish universities is due out next weekend.

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9 Comments on “And now, the Times Higher Education rankings”

  1. iainmacl Says:

    And as you will have heard, the talk of the OECD IMHE conference was the comment by Charles Reed (California State) that rankings are a ‘disease’, which received a spontaneous round of applause across the auditorium. The feeling of many at the event from a range of organisations, governments and universities was that they are not only intrinsically flawed but destructive by steering university missions away from what might be valuable goals towards the selected measures used by the tables. Not that any of that is of course new, but what did seem new was the vehemence of the feeling. Anyway, let’s not forget it’s tremendous marketing to boost the sales of a magazine and the fact that they now sell an app sort of says it all really. Sadly predictable to see how different institutions are spinning…doing badly? impact of government cut backs, doing well? excellence of the institution and staff…..etc.

    • Iain, the truth of it is that while academics may not like rankings, and will enthusiastically applaud any criticism of them, the rest of the world doesn’t agree, and whatever we may or may not want will make judgements about us on the back of them. Our opposition will be presented (and not always without cause) as special pleading and defensiveness.

      The general view in society now is that people who will make use of HE have a right to have access to data and judgements about the institutions. This is the view about all public services, and certainly we won’t be able to reject that for HE.

      We need to accept that this process is ‘out there’ and is having a major impact. we need to make it work for us.

      • Al Says:

        While I accept what you say there, one could also say that the most it concerns a uni management the more it distracts from what that uni is actually doing.

      • Ernie Ball Says:

        “The rest of the world doesn’t agree.”

        If that’s the case, what is the appropriate attitude of those in universities? Simply to bow down before the ignorant opinion of “the rest of the world.” That’s an interesting conception of the role of a university: handmaiden to the ideological prejudices of the day. It’s not one that anyone who knows anything about the historical mission and values of the university (as opposed to the vast majority who know nothing of these and would rather have specious data than no data at all) would espouse.

  2. Ernie Ball Says:


  3. Ernie Ball Says:

    And just to underscore the mindless absurdity of it all, consider the first sentences of two stories written one week apart by Seán Flynn in the Irish Times:

    8 September 2010: Trinity and UCD slip down world university rankings

    TCD HAS dropped out of the world’s top 50 universities and UCD has slipped from the top 100 in the latest world university rankings.

    16 September 2010: Trinity, UCD among top 100 universities

    TRINITY AND UCD have secured places inside the top 100 in the latest world ranking survey published today.

    Why am I reminded of a chimpanzee looking at a yoyo?

    • kevin denny Says:

      Ernie, sigh, you are ignoring the dramatic improvements that occurred in Irish universities between September 8th and 16th.

  4. iainmacl Says:

    The whole exercise is descending into farce. Isn’t it time we stopped advertising commercial tabloids and journal publishing empires like this? Or maybe we should all hunt down the mysterious Alexandrian (see link below) and offer him a post in our universities. As for reputational component, maybe they were mixing it up with the old library of same name?..tum te tum…

    ps Irish media coverage? guess the spin depends on which institution the journalist went to and whether or not they had a good experience there!

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