The QS World University Rankings for 2010 are out this morning. As I’ve said before, I don’t think university rankings really tell you that much about the quality of a particular institution, but I know many readers are interested. It’s sort of like sports: Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s winning? Who’s losing?
The top-line news is that the University of Cambridge in the U.K. has finally edged past Harvard University for the number one spot. As for Canada’s universities, we’ve generally held our own, with 10 universities in the top 200, compared to 11 last year (Simon Fraser University, alas, has slipped below 200). Every Canadian institution but one in the top 200 is down somewhat from last year’s rankings. The only one not to drop was University of Toronto, which remains at number 29. McGill is again the top Canadian university, in the 19th spot, down just one from 18th last year. Make of it what you will.
Below shows Canada’s standings (the equals sign means it is tied for that spot with another institution).
|2010 rank||2009 rank||University|
|29||29||University of Toronto|
|44||40||University of British Columbia|
|78||59||University of Alberta|
|136||107||Université de Montréal|
|145||113||University of Waterloo|
|164||151=||University of Western Ontario|
|165||149=||University of Calgary|
Canada has done well in the university rankings released by High Impact Universities with 5 Canadian universities in the top 100 and 10 in the top 200. The rankings are purely based on research impact (citations).
As someone who wrote a number of times showing how these rankings are bogus, I think that comments of a university level should say more about them than simply “Make of it what you will”, as if there was nothing specific to say in a rigorous manner. Since I do not blog and rarely look at them, it may be that they are only a series of words following each other in no obvious logical manner. So, you write that you “don’t think university rankings really tell you that much about the quality of a particular institution” and then goes on to ask: “Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s winning? Who’s losing?” So, after all there ARE winners and loosers even though all of this has no meaning… In fact it has a very simple and statistical meaning: the changes from year to year are statistical noise due to a large variance. The other source of change is of course the changes in the panel of (unknown) pseudo-experts who decide that this or that university is better or worse THIS year than LAST year. But that is obvioulsy a JOKE: how can a university move in one year from 149 to 165? This is just impossible. So the noise is very high: at least 25 ranks in this list. Conclusion: one can say precise things on rankings and not simply make whatever we like. Doing that is akin to saying : « oh ! the horoscope is out today ! I do not believe in it but many people do, so let us look at what they say… » instead of stating clearly : that is pseudo-science and pseudo-measures !