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In case you don’t trust Brits (Times Higher Education and QS) or Chinese people (Shanghai rankings) in assessing which are the best universities in the world, from now on there is a US alternative. The popular American publisher of national university rankings, U.S. News & World Report, has now entered into the global market with the very first edition of its ‘Global Best Universities’, launched on 28 October. It provides global ranking of the top 500 universities across 49 countries, as well as four regional, 11 country-level, and 21 subject area-specific rankings.
Utilised indicators include the controversial global and regional reputation surveys as well as scholarly publications, citations and impact, international collaboration, and awards of doctoral degrees. Although the Global Best Universities ranking is based on Thomson Reuters InCites data, the same used by Times Higher Education, results slightly differ. Among the similarities there is US domination (with 134 schools) and the limited access to the top 10 of only American (8) and British universities (Oxford and Cambridge). However, when looking at the broader chart there are some surprises: the UK is not anymore the second country with the greatest presence in the list, beaten by Germany with 42 universities on the list, compared to ‘only’ 38 British ones. China follows in third place with 27 schools – not counting Hong Kong, a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which has an additional five.
Slightly mysterious at first sight is the divergence of university positioning between the global edition and the national one, released one month ago (see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe, Edition September 2014). Such difference strikes from the very first position, globally earned by Harvard, while nationally by Princeton. U.S. News clarified that is because of different parameters taken into consideration in the two rankings: omitted from the global formula are factors such as undergraduate admissions selectivity, graduation rates, alumni donations and some other measures typically included in the domestic ranking.
As many economists would say, rankings are information tools that work as useful signals to allow higher education market to function better. On the other hand, users and perspective students might reply that too many conflicting signals could leave the main higher education beneficiaries a bit confused.