Harvard, MIT top U.S. News inaugural global rankings

Formula seeks to compare research universities, not undergraduate experience

U.S. News & World Report released today its first annual global rankings, which seek to compare universities across borders based on research opportunities—instead of the undergraduate experience compared by the national version.

The global formula used data from Thomson Reuters' InCites tool to analyze:

  • Global and regional reputations;
  • Citations and impact;
  • Awards of doctoral degrees;
  • Scholarly publications; and
  • International collaboration.

Domestic ranking staples—such as undergraduate admission selectivity, alumni donations, and graduation rates—were omitted to ensure all data points were comparable.

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Under the new methodology, some universities snagged much higher rankings compared to their national listing. For example, University of California at Berkeley ranked No. 20 on the U.S. list but No. 3 globally. Similarly, University of California at Los Angeles falls at No. 23 domestically but at No. 8 in the global version.  

"This is about faculty productivity and prestige," says the magazine's editor Brian Kelly. "This is about big muscular research universities doing what research universities claim is their mission."

Rankings are not perfect, but they complete "a useful function," says Ben Wildavsky, director of higher-education studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government at State University of New York and former U.S. News editor.

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Despite the criticism that such rankings are subjective, "they're not going to go away," he says, so "the challenge is to make them better."

Overall, the list included 500 schools from 49 countries. The U.S. placed 134 schools total—eight of which made the top 10:

1. Harvard University, U.S.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.
3. University of California at Berkeley, U.S.
4. Stanford University, U.S.
5.University of Oxford, U.K.
6. University of Cambridge, U.K.
7.California Institute of Technology, U.S.
8.University of California Los Angeles, U.S.
9.University of Chicago, U.S.
10. Columbia University, U.S.

Other well-represented countries include Germany (42), U.K. (38), and China and Hong Kong (32) (Anderson, Washington Post, 10/28; U.S. News & World Report, 10/28).

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