In an August 29 feature entitled “30 Ways to Rate a College” for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Alex Richards and Ron Coddington created a clear and revealing interactive map to the major rankings showing what measures are important to each rater — and how few they actually have in common. The overlapping lines here resemble a fireworks finale, but on the site the individual raters can be turned on or off at will with a click for easy reading.
The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) has been issued by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University since 2003. The 2010 ranking of 500 institutions, issued in mid-August, showed American institutions dominating once again, with eight in the top ten and 54 in the top 100. For the eighth year in a row, Harvard came in at number one, immediately followed by UC Berkeley and Stanford. The ARWU broke the rankings down into “broad subject fields” and “selected subject fields” as well, and Berkeley appeared in the top three in Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Computer Science. (Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge have all been in the top five behind Harvard since 2004.)
In the burgeoning (and increasingly confusing) array of rankings, one prominent player has split and become two, and, this year at least, UC Berkeley probably doesn’t mind a bit. World University Rankings was launched by the education/study abroad firm Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) in 2004 in cooperation with the Times Higher Education Supplement. After the 2009 rankings, the two divided, Times Higher Education going with a new partner, Thomson Reuters, and a new methodology. So in 2010, two separate but different ratings emerged, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings. Their differing approaches brought split receptions, along with varying results. UC Berkeley, on the THE ranking, was given the eighth-place world rank (after Harvard, CalTech, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Cambridge, and Oxford), which made it the highest-ranking public university on the planet. On the QS ranking, by contrast, Berkeley was assigned 28th place (up, at least, from its 2009 rank of 39th).
UC Berkeley alums are among America’s best prepared college grads, according to a new Wall Street Journal survey of job recruiters nationwide. In the report, “Paths to Professions,” Berkeley ranks 15th on the list of top recruiter picks. (UCLA came close behind, in 17th place. The Journal surveyed hiring professionals at non-profits, government agencies, and large companies, who together account for 43,000 hires over the past year. It found, overall, that public universities are seen as producing the most academically prepared, well-rounded, and job-ready graduates.
On the “Cool School” rankings of green colleges published by Sierra magazine, shifting survey priorities plummeted UC Berkeley to 32nd place, a long drop from its top-ten placement last year. Within the UC system this year, Berkeley came in behind Irvine (6th), San Diego, and Davis (15th and 16th, respectively), but ahead of Merced (39th) and Santa Barbara (44th). Stanford surpassed all the UCs, sliding into 5th place (just above UC-Irvine). Symbolically if not suspiciously, the only two schools on the list with the verdant color in their names, Green Mountain College and Evergreen State College, came in first and third, respectively.
There will always be partisans. One Chronicle of Higher Education reader (self-identified as “22286593”, commenting on a July column by Ben Wiidavsky, said, “As an objective observer of university rankings, I will support whatever entity and/or methodology that ranks UC Berkeley at the top since there is absolutely no doubt that it is the best research university in the world. Anyone who disagrees are East Coast snobs, English who still think they have an empire, or a dullard from Stanford. The fact that I received all my degrees from Berkeley is completely beside the point.”