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University Rankings

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  • Thread starter Bunsen
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I know that there are many reasons why university rankings are not a "valid" source of information, but I would really like to know your opinion regarding the following questions:

1) Which ranking do you think it is better (more valid)?.. why? (Arwu, QS, THES, other)

2) How high should be ranked a university to be considered a top university?

3) I have seen that only few non US-UK universities do rank top 20 and for countries such as France, Germany or Australia, the best universities appear 30-60 in the world. Accordingly with your answer to question 2, do this mean that this countries do not have "top" universities?

Thanks a lot for your answers!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
UltrafastPED
Science Advisor
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In the US a "Top University" is one with a "Top Research Program" in your field of interest.

Thus the bigger the total research budget, the higher the ranking. This is why MIT, Stanford, Harvard, etc. are ranked near the top in various fields.

In some countries all of the research is based at national or regional labs ... thus the university is where you take your courses, not where you do your research.

And of course many universities in the US do very little research - they are primarily places for students to take courses, and earn specific degrees.

How valid are rankings? It all depends on how you intend to use the information, and how the information was gathered and put together.
 
  • #3
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Why do you personally care? Are you trying to decide where to go to school?

Somebody should post a sticky thread with regards to that question, it gets asked over and over.

The rankings do indeed measure something, but drawing conclusions about school quality is challenging. Some schools are very old and have lots of money; is it totally fair to compare such a school to a newer school with less money, particularly if your ranking depends upon, say, number of prestigious graduates? How about the fact that (since I assume we're talking about physics/math/engineering) that school X might be ranked #5 overall but is much lousier at specialty Y than school Z which is ranked #30 (for instance, this is true of Harvard biophysics relative to U of Maryland biophysics)?

As for the typical student, the rule which is oft repeated on physics forums everytime such a thread surfaces is that your undergraduate institution doesn't make much of a difference if you work hard, and your graduate institution choice is about optimizing department culture, advisor, research prowess, geographic location,and prestige as it relates to making connections and bumping shoulders with the best and the brightest.
 

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