Regular readers of this blog will know I’m not a huge fan of university rankings. There are so many of them out there, all a little bit different, it’s difficult to know which one to go with. And that just brings up the question: do we really need university rankings anyway? Don’t university rankings just exist to support and enhance the entities that produce them? I suppose representatives from the world’s top universities would argue rankings are essential - essential for funding, essential for students, essential for research and partnerships. But when companies come up with rankings systems which are clearly money-making schemes such as the QS Stars ranking system, it taints the whole lot.
Yesterday another ranking of the world’s universities was published: the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking of Top Universities by Reputation. This is a ‘proper’ ranking system in that universities can’t buy their way onto the list. Over 17,500 academics from across the globe were surveyed to get the results. The usual suspects are at the top of this elite list (Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Oxford). I was a little disappointed to see my two alma maters – the University of Texas and New York University – placed at 32 and 34 respectively. But what, really, is a ranking of universities by reputation worth?
Academics were polled to get the data for this ranking, so it is perhaps no surprise the list looks the way it does. I’d like to see a reputation ranking of universities where the data comes from a massive survey of students, students who are located all over the world. What would that list look like? After all, aren’t students the reason for universities?