A very interesting new set of global rankings appeared seven days ago, the Round University Ranking from Russia. The organization is rather mysterious, although probably not so much in Russia and nearby places.
The rankings are based entirely on data from Thomson Reuters (TR) and the structure and methodology are similar to last year's Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. They include 12 out of the 13 indicators used in the 2014 THE rankings, with only the percentage of research income derived from industry omitted. There are eight more measures making a total of twenty, five each for teaching, research, international diversity and financial sustainability.
There is a normalized citations indicator with a weighting of only eight per cent, balanced by a simple count of citations per academic and research staff, also with eight per cent.
Altogether the three reputation indicators count for 18 per cent of the weighting compared to 33 per cent in the 2014 THE rankings or 50 per cent in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world rankings
To date these rankings appear to have been ignored by the world media except in Russia and its neighbors. Compared to the excitement with which the THE or even the QS or Shanghai rankings are greeted this might seem a bit odd. If the THE rankings were sophisticated because they had 13 indicators then these are even more so with 20. If the THE rankings were trusted because they were powered by Thomson Reuters so are these. If the survey in the THE rankings was real social science then so is this.
Could it be that the THE rankings are beloved of the Russell Group and its like around the world not because of their robustness, comprehensiveness, transparency or superior methodology but because of the glamour derived from a succession of prestigious events, networking dinners and exclusive masterclasses designed to appeal to the status anxieties of upwardly or downwardly mobile university administrators?
There are some problems with the RUR rankings. There is incoherence about what the indicators are supposed to measure.The methodology says that '[I]t is assumed that "undergraduate" level is the core of higher education' so there is an indicator measuring academic staff per bachelor degree. But then we have a weighting of eight per cent for doctoral degrees per bachelor degrees.
One excellent thing about these rankings is that the score for all of the indicators can be found in the profiles of the individual universities. If anyone has the energy and time there are some important questions that could be answered . Is the correlation between teaching and research reputation so high that a distinction between the two is redundant? Is income or number of faculty a better prediction of research performance?
The presentation leaves a lot to be desired. Cooper League? The explanation of the methodology verges on the incomprehensible. Can somebody tell RUR to get a competent human to translate for them and forget about the Google Translator?
The economics of the relationship between TR and RUR are puzzling. There are no obvious signs that RUR has a large income from which to pay TR for the data and I doubt that TR has passed it on for purely altruistic reasons. Could it be that TR are simply trying to undercut THE's attempt to go it alone? If nothing else, it could undermine any THE plans to go into the benchmarking and consulting trade.
Anyway, here are some first places. No surprises here, except maybe for Scuola Superiore Normale Pisa. You can find out exactly where the strengths of that school are by checking the scores for the twenty indicators.
International Diversity: EPF Lausanne
Financial Sustainability: Caltech
China: Peking 49th
Russia: Moscow State 187th
India: IIT Kharagpur 272nd
UK: ICL 5th
Germany: Munich 22nd
France: Ecole Polytechnique 19th
Egypt: American University Cairo 571st
South Africa: Cape Town 201st
Brazil: Sao Paulo 65th
Italy: Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa 66th
Turkey: METU 308th
Malaysia: Universiti Putra Malaysia 513th
Australia: ANU 77th
Japan: Tokyo 47th
Korea: KAIST 41st.