Times Higher Education World Rankings: New Methodology in 2010
In September of 2010, London-based Times Higher Education released its annual rankings, based on a revised methodology that claimed to put increased emphasis on the quality of teaching. This sounds good—at least in theory—but how effective was the outcome? See below:
Pros: This list can be a wake-up call for ethnocentric Americans. Universities abroad that are hardly household words in the U.S. (e.g., University of Hong Kong, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) steal top-25 spots from such Usual Suspects as Brown, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and Georgetown (all of which landed below the #50 mark, with Georgetown at #164). Other surprises to rankings-aficionados put UCLA above Columbia, University of Washington above Duke, and Ohio State above UVA. The plus of this shake-up is that it sends a message that suggests, "There are many ways to evaluate an institution, and the U.S. News Methodology isn’t the only viable approach."
Cons: Despite the purported emphasis on teaching, nowhere does the survey seem to ask anyone, "So did you like your professors and do you feel that they were good teachers?" Instead, some of the evaluation criteria listed include staff/student ratio (which can certainly have some effect on quality but definitely doesn't tell the whole story) and "the ratio of PhD to bachelor's degrees awarded by each institution." (THE rationale = "We believe that institutions with a high density of research students are more knowledge-intensive, and that the presence of an active postgraduate community is a marker of a research-led teaching environment valued by undergraduates and postgraduates alike.") Arguably, of course, many undergrads feel the opposite ... that the teaching is better on a campus where they are not playing second-fiddle to grad students.
Also, these rankings focus exclusively on research universities with no liberal arts colleges in the mix. The methodology also seems to produce an outcome that is more germane to graduate students than to undergrad. See http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2010-2011/analysis-methodology.html.