UBC falls in world university rankings

UBC is the top 40th institution worldwide according to the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), released last month.

The ARWU, also known as the Shanghai Rankings, lists the top 50 out of more than 1200 institutions. Last year, the ARWU placed UBC at 37th in the world. In 2013, UBC was ranked 40th overall but still placed 38th within specific subject areas.

“The Shanghai Rankings are mostly based on research and not so much on reputation like the Times Higher Education [World University Rankings],” said Marcela Hernandez, UBC’s Director of Planning and Institutional Research. “UBC has stayed for a long time as second in Canada and between the 35th and 40th in the world.”

Published annually by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University since 2003, the ARWU measures each university’s performance on six indicators. According to its website, these indicators include “the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Reuters, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance of a university.”

“I think that [the ARWU] use indicators that give you an idea of where you are [relative to] other institutions,” said Hernandez, but notes that actively working to increase an institution’s rank should not be a top priority.

Although there has been some fluctuation, university rankings have not changed drastically over the past several years. “Sometimes when you make decisions about research, it takes several years for them to show in the rankings,” said Hernandez.

Rankings such as the ARWU are frequently cited by the media and universities themselves and can shape the public’s perception of the relative caliber of different institutions. In particular, university rankings can be viewed by prospective students and faculty as an influential factor in deciding upon an institution to join.

“If you understand how the rankings work it will not change that perception,” said Hernandez. “As long as [UBC is] placed in the top 50, that will indicate that it’s a pretty good quality research university.”

Hernandez lists research as one of UBC’s greatest strengths. “It’s a great research institution … it’s a leader in innovation in many areas.

Going forward, Hernandez believes that UBC can continue to grow as a world class university by utilizing proper research strategy to further strengthen and support our research initiatives, as well as working to recruit the best students and faculty from around the world.