Thursday, March 12, 2015

The University of Toronto ranks 16th in the world!

The latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings for 2015 are out [The World Reputation Rankings]. This ranking list universities by their academic reputation. It has little to do with undergraduate education, which in most cases, is just an important sideline for these universities.

The University of Toronto ranks #16 on this list. I mention this because many people in the USA are unaware of the quality of universities in other countries. They will not be surprised to learn that Harvard is #1 but do they know that Cambridge is #2 and Oxford is #3?

Canada has three universities in the top 40 (McGill #35 and the University of British Columbia #37 are the other two). Our population is 35 million.

The USA has twenty-one universities in the top 40. It's population is 320 million.

The United Kingdom has seven in the top 40 with a population of 65 million.

It won't be long before China takes over.

It seems pretty obvious that the number and quality of universities is proportional to the wealth and the population of countries in the "Western" English-speaking world. It is not obvious that any one country can claim to be better than the others at fostering good universities. If you had to pick a country, it looks like the United Kingdom would be the clear winner.


25 comments :

  1. It is not obvious that any one country can claim to be better than the others at fostering good universities. If you had to pick a country, it looks like the United Kingdom would be the clear winner

    Well, there are a lot of university rankings, and they don't correlate all that well, even for the top ten, so it's obvious that things are pretty subjective. Color me unimpressed that a British organization inflates the rankings of their universities (yes, I'm well aware that the same criticism can be applied to American rankings).

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    1. I'm well aware that the same criticism can be applied to American rankings

      Oh no! I would never criticize Americans for being biased. Americans are convinced that they have the best university system in the entire world. They keep telling themselves that over and over, including on this blog. I'm sure they would never exaggerate so when THEY rank universities it must be the truth.

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  2. Many people outside of the USA are unaware of the quality of universities in other countries.

    Did you mean what you wrote ( rather than, say, "inside the USA"), because if so I don't understand.

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    1. No, I did not mean to write it that way. Thanks.

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  3. "The USA has twenty-one universities in the top 40. It's population is 320 million."

    So the USA, with < 4% if the world's population, has more than half of its great universities.

    Or to put it another way, if you are in a great university, you are probably in America.

    And Larry tries to spin this as a lesson in humility for Americans.

    As for China, they are building many universities but their academic culture is hopelessly corrupt. They are not permitted to access Google, Google Cloud, Gmail, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc. etc. and can no longer scale the Great Wall by VPN. They just gave their highest science prize, NOT given out every year but only for "real accomplishments", to a total fraud who claimed he invented cloud computing by padding his resume with articles he did not write. Criticism by scientists of this award was promptly banned, and the scientific assocoations were forced to express support for the political decision.

    Fraud, plagiarism of theses, and false resume padding are widespread. A blogger, Feng Zhouzi, tried to expose widespread plagiarism and pseudoscience nonsense like TCM. He wrote an expose of a quack surgeon who allegedly pioneered a surgery to restore continence to spina bifida patients. In fact, the surgery made them more crippled. The doctor hired thugs to kill Feng Zhouzi and a reporter; Feng escaped with his life; the reporter was severely beaten.

    An idiot wrote a series of essays trashing the USA in highly inaccurate ways, for example, ridiculously exaggerating the cost of real estate, property taxes, etc. to make America a dystopia. Feng debunked his false claims one by one. The idiot was highly praised by the government, while Feng's blog was deleted and all his writings banned.

    He now continues blogging in Chinese... from San Diego.

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  4. There is certainly a big advantage in being located in an English-speaking country for these rankings, and I think, for example, that some of the universities in Germany and Switzerland are at least as good as some of those ranked ahead of them. France does pretty poorly in all these rankings, and one reason is obvious if you look at the two it has in the 51-60 range: Panthéon-Sorbonne University - Paris 1 and Panthéon-Sorbonne University - Paris 4: the French seem completely incapable of giving sensible names to their universities (our local one is Aix-Marseille Université: French words written with an English word order), and have given them they can't resist changing them so often that no one can keep up. I'm prepared to bet that Panthéon-Sorbonne University - Paris 1 and Panthéon-Sorbonne University - Paris 4 will be called something different in five years time. As I said we now have Aix-Marseille Université, but until recently we had three, imaginatively names Université d'Aix-Marseille 1, Université d'Aix-Marseille 2 and Université d'Aix-Marseille 3, and all had alternative names: Université d'Aix-Marseille 2 could also be called Ul'Université de la Méditerranée, and in practice was known to most people most of the time as LLuminy. I don't know how well the people at the THES keep up with this, but it's clear that the chaps in Shanghai get totally confused.

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    1. I do like how the French number their universities, however -- Paris I, Paris II, etc., though. Does anybody else do that?

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  5. Hmm. I need to get into the habit of using the Preview button before pressing Publish.

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  6. I have to say that even Canadian triumphalism strikes a modest note.

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    1. It is probably true that Americans when asked to name a top Canadian University would probably say McGill, and most rankings do put Toronto well above McGill, so that's a useful corrective. McGill's a decent university but its glory days (at least research-wise) were when Ernest Rutherford was a professor there 100 years ago.

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  7. I would note that the State of California with a population of 38 million or so has 3 universities in the top 10 while Canada, with about the same population has none. Great Britain with a population of 65 million has 2 in the top 10 and is the only country other then the USA to have any in the top 10.

    I don't know that this has much significance as clearly the USA has benefited from the legacy of the land grant college act passed after the Civil War and the GI Bill passed after WW 2. Currently, we are in the process of pissing away this legacy through penny wise and pound foolish actions by many if not most of the states which have sharply cut back on their support of the various state university systems. This is only now beginning to be reflected in these type of rankings.

    By the way, it should be pointed out that Harvard, in the person of its top rated law school, has produced two some of the biggest assholes in politics (e.g. E. W. Jackson, failed candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, potential presidential candidate in 2016, and Senator Tom Cotton, newly elected senator from Arkansas who wrote the infamous letter from the 47 (or maybe 42) Rethuglican senators to the Ayatollah Khamenei earlier this week. Harvard has much to answer for.

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    1. California is the clear winner, geographically, hands down. No contest.

      The UC system kicked ass on that poll, plus Stanford and Caltech. UCLA at #13 (!!) beat out Cornell at #20.

      Brown and Dartmouth are nowhere to be seen. Even UC Davis kicked their asses. UC Davis!?

      Geographically, and considering their populations, Russia is the clear loser, along with France, Germany and Australia. Japan beat all of them.

      Considering its population, China sucked. India's not even trying.

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    2. UC-Davis isn't just the ag-school of the UC system anymore. They are getting some serious names in genomics and molecular evolution there like Jonathan Eisen and C. Titus Brown

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    3. California is the clear winner, geographically, hands down.

      California's population is about 39 million so it's not surprising that they have some good universities. However, with only a few more people than Canada they have a five universities in the top 40 (compared to 3 for Canada). Not only that, California has three in the top ten!

      What I really like is that some of those top California universities are not private universities with tons of old endowment money. It goes to show you that public universities in the USA can hold their own in terms of academic scholarship.

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    4. Larry: "However, with only a few more people than Canada they have a five universities in the top 40 (compared to 3 for Canada). Not only that, California has three in the top ten!"

      Three in the top 10, five in the top 40, and seven in the top 50. With 0.55% of the world's population, California has 14% of its top 50 schools.

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    5. It goes to show you that public universities in the USA can hold their own in terms of academic scholarship.

      Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts, with the steadily decreasing government support.

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  8. By the way, I would also point out that the USA and Great Britain benefited from the ex-patriot German scientists who were forced to leave Germany in the 1930s because of being Jewish or of Jewish descent (I don't know how many of these individuals also ended up in Canada or Australia). As the widow of Sir Peter Medawar said in a book on the subject, Hister shook the tree and Britain and the USA gathered up the fallen apples.

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  9. Larry, this is not meant to offend you at all, but it has been my experience working around the "products" of U of T. It is mainly negative. And I don't mean to be mean but to me personally many medial students coming out of U of T are not really prepared to face the reality of the future profession. I may very well be wrong that is why we have Dr. Moran's blog .

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    1. We aren't talking about undergraduate (or medical) education. Those give very different rankings.

      I don't think Harvard deserves to rank in the top 10 with respect to the quality of undergraduate education. Neither does MIT.

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    2. I actually agree. So, where is the problem? What do you think Larry? I'm clueless and frustrated.

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    3. Could you explain your assertion about UofT medical students being unprepared for the reality of their future profession in greater detail?

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  10. China makes "cheap" pretty much everything. When shopping for hardwood floors for my cottage I was told to avoid Chinese and American products, Why? I bought American because I liked he color and I had to return it.. The Canadian hardwood turned out to be the best but not ideal.

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  11. Who is the judhe? How do they know who is top dog?
    is the ranking a reflection on the intelligence of the students or the teachers? i don't understand that.
    CHINA! Very unlikely third world countries can keep up with others. Thats why so much exodus from China by those most interested in higher education.. They see no hope there.
    To me its a reflection on intelligence and the money coming in to support the schools.
    why should the english civilization not get the intellectual credit but instead be explained away as a result of wealth??
    The wealth is with us because of the intelligence curve. Hand in glove.
    I question if UoT is really worthy and whether other things motivate the judges. Hmmm.
    anyways what should it be? a different score each year or a constant curve?
    What does it matter about universities? If its about intellectual accomplishment then thats a different score or what is the score?
    Thse listings is a strange animal. YES i would think America would have the best ones, whatever that means, but who's scoring.
    are Britains top two REALLY that great? Hmmmm.
    What about the university of life? Everybody tells me that is the better school!!.

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  12. It's interesting that this is a "reputation" ranking. The connotation is of external subjective impressions. Another ranking (US) came out recently that attempted to measure ROI, return on investment, specifically testing cost of education versus earnings for the 20 years after graduation. It's one way to measure things, not one I like. However, it is quite objective, pragmatic even. Harvey Mudd was the winner. Fascinating thing, while they train engineers, they make them take more humanities courses than most tech schools. There might be lessons in success.

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