By Ruth A. Pagell*
(20 May 2015) The 1983 appearance of the US News & World Report “Best Colleges in America,” which focused on inputs and was designed for student decision making, started the rankings frenzy in the U.S. When university rankings went global, the magazine published its first “Rankings of World’s Best Colleges” (Morse, 2008) by republishing the THE-QS ranking. It continued to republish what became QS ranking through 2013. I saw no reason to track it. However, in October 2014, the magazine rolled out its own “2015 Best Global Universities Rankings,” measuring academic research performance. As in all the other Ruth’s Rankings articles, the focus is on the Asian market but we will also highlight the special rankings for “Best Arab Region Universities Rankings”.
US News & World Report publishes many educational rankings for the U.S. market with an emphasis on metrics that are of interest to students. The magazine gears its global metrics toward a more scholarly market and is more applicable to PhD students than undergraduates. Bibliometric data are sourced from Thomson Reuters InCites (see Ruth’s Rankings 10). Five hundred universities receive a global rank out of a pool of 750. The 750 are a mix of the top 200 schools by reputation and then from “those that had published the most number of articles during the most recent five years, de-duplicated with the top 200 from the reputation survey.”
The interface is straightforward. The screen display includes only the composite score. There is no way to display or sort the entire list on any other indicator. You can filter geographically by region, country and city and also filter by subject area. You may click on a university name in the list to see the component ranks. You may also search for a specific university. All of the 750 universities are ranked on the 10 indicators to determine the composite score for the top 500. See Figure 11.1 for a for a sample portrait of National Taiwan University with its score and individual rankings.
A university in the top 500 can have a score on an individual indicator that will be in the 700s or a school in the 700s or unranked will appear in the top 100 by subject. By selecting country or city, all universities are displayed, even those not in the top 500.
Ten indicators form the composite score and Table 11.1 : Methodology for Best Global University rankings describes them in more detail.
Two rankings, worth a total of 25%, are based on global and regional reputation from the Thomson Reuters “Academic Reputation Survey”. A summary report of the survey is available on the methodology and background of the respondents. We will look at reputation in more depth in a later article. Regional rankings are unique to this ranking methodology.
Six Thomson Reuters metrics make up 65% of the scoring and are a mix of size dependent and size independent indicators. For all metrics in articles published by multiple authors, each institution gets full credit. While Arts & Humanities output is included in publication output, it is not included in the citation data.
The remaining 10% comes from two publically available school level indicators on PhDs, one of which is size independent.
The specific regional, country and city rankings are based on the one global composite score. The total Asia region includes115 universities of which 89 are ranked in the Global 500. Only seven are in the top 100. China leads the pack with 27 in the top 500. Thailand’s Mahidol makes it into the top 500 and two Malaysian universities, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Sains Malaysia appear in subject rankings.
Subject rankings have a separate methodology. See Table 11.2 for Best Global Universities by Subject, including weights and top world and Asian universities by subject . The rankings use 21 fields from InCites Essential Science Indicator (ESI) schema with eight indicator categories. The two school level indicators are dropped due to insufficient information. Separate weightings are given to the hard sciences and the soft sciences. For ranking purposes, soft sciences include computer science, economics and business, engineering and social science and public health and mathematics.
Fifty nine additional universities who are not in the top 500 are included in the subject rankings. For example, Singapore Management University is ranked 89th in the world for economics and business and 7th in Asia even though it is not among the top 500.
Best Arab Region Universities Rankings
The Arab Region has its own rankings website based on data from Scopus. Ninety one universities are ranked. Branch campuses of off-shore universities are listed under the country of the branch and are not ranked. Additional unranked universities, with links to their websites, are listed under each country. Only two of the countries, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and one institution from each country are included in the Global 500. See Table 11.3 Methodology for Best Arab Region Universities Rankings. Nine metrics make up this score focusing on the importance of getting published in peer-reviewed journals; getting those publications cited by other researchers in their work; and having a paper be highly cited in its field at the 10% or 25% level.
Arab region universities are also ranked on sixteen subject categories from the Scopus Schema. Saudi Arabian universities are first in 15 out of the 16 categories, with American University of Beirut as number one in social sciences. King Saud University is first in half of the categories. King Abdulaziz is first in the region on mathematics and seventh in the world.
The more rankings we examine, the more the same names appear. For this article, I specifically only compared U.S. News with THE and QS (Ruth’s Rankings 5) since they all use reputation rankings. For U.S. News, 25% of the score is split between global and regional reputation. 50% of QS score is split between academic and employer reputation rankings and 33% of the THE score is attributed to research and teaching reputation.
U.S. News uses Thomson Reuters scores for its global reputation rankings as does InCites. I used InCites because I could download the universities and their metrics. There are some differences between the two but not enough to change the outcome. As shown in Table 11.4 , there is consistency between the reputation rankings and composite score for the global top ten universities for the U.S. News composite score and InCites global reputation ranking. This is not the case for the Asian rankings. For all but two universities in the Asian top ten, the reputation rankings exceed the research ranking by up to over 100 places.
For composite rankings, there is a 70% overlap on global rankings for all three and 60% overlap for Asia. U.S. News has more unique rankings, since it gives a higher weighting to bibliometrics than the other two. See Table 11.5 World Comparisons and Table 11.6 Asian Comparisons.
Do we really need another ranking, using metrics that are similar to existing rankings? That is not for me to decide. The U.S. News rankings were developed by Robert Morse, the guru of university rankings, who has been involved in rankings and rankings methodology from the very first U.S. rankings in 1983. U.S. News is easy to use but with ease of use comes lack of flexibility, the ability to download and drill down by metrics. Its unique metric is Regional Reputation and it has a special project to expand rankings for the “Arab World”.
The next article will be on U-Multirank the EU initiative in response to the proliferation of all these other rankings. After that, as the 2015 rankings start coming out, we will look again at changes over the year from Ruth’s Rankings 1. Other possible topics are national rankings, journal citation metrics, reputation, visualization and graphics in the rankings and an examination of rankings, policy and economics.
Morse, Robert (Oct 9, 2014) 2015. Best global universities coming soon, in Morse Code: Inside the College Rankings. US News & World Report blog http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/college-rankings-blog/2014/10/09/2015-best-global-universities-rankings-coming-soon
Morse, Robert (Dec 1, 2008). Our first rankings of the world’s best colleges. U.S. News & World Report. 145(12)73
A list of Ruth’s Rankings is here.
*Ruth A. Pagell is currently an adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. Before joining UH, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674