ARWU rankings: Melbourne wins big

Academic Rankings of World Universities special edition

False start

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (formally known as the Shanghai JT) is officially out. This year’s release got off to a bad start when The Australian newspaper broke embargo by 12 hours plus, publishing in the print edition of the paper this morning and reproducing the story in its online edition overnight. The online version was removed around 7.30 this morning, but not before ABC Radio had reported the results.

Good news for Glyn

The University of Melbourne rocketed up the ranking, rising 10 spots on last year to 44th. This is very good news indeed for Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis – despite every university talking rankings down, they all take the ARWU seriously indeed and Melbourne will make much of its presence among the world’s elite.

But so-so for some

Australia’s oldest university, U of Sydney slipped out of the word’s top 100, leaving Australia with just three following Melbourne in the leader group, ANU, UWA and the University of Queensland. While Sydney dropped at one end the University of Adelaide improved at the other, rising up the 150-200 group. The other Group of Eight institutions, Monash and the University of New South Wales were with Sydney, ranking between 100 and 150.

After the eight

Australian universities outside the research intensive Group of Eight that made it onto the list were ranked as follows

200-250

Macquarie

300-350

Curtin, Flinders, Griffith, James Cook

350-400

Swinburne, Newcastle, Tasmania, UTS, Wollongong

400-450

Deakin

Not so hard hiting

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb likes to remind us that Australia does not fight all that far above our weight when it comes to research. The evidence in the (research-heavy) ARWU is there for barrackers and detractors both. Yes Australia ranks equal fourth in the world for elite universities, coming (a country mile) behind the US (52 in the top 500), UK (8) Switzerland (5) and matching Germany, France, the Netherlands and Canada – all of which have 4 in the top 100. But we only have 19 in the top 500, while China – which rare a bare mention for academic merit a generation back – has 44. Half Australia’s public universities do not make the world 500 (making us equal 7th in the world, with Japan).

Same super power

For a superpower supposedly on the slide the US is remarkably strong when it comes to academic excellence. This year, same as every year, the United States dominates the ARWU, being home to 16 of the top 20 universities in the world, and four of the first five, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UC-Berkeley. Cambridge is fifth.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au