No Shanghai surprise

The Saturday afternoon release of the 2015 Academic Rankings of World Universities (formerly know as the Shanghai Jiao Tong list) will not drag metrics observers away from enumerating footy stats for long, what with the way the 15th annual edition is not much different from last year.

Harvard is the world’s number one followed by Stamford, MIT and UCal Berkeley. The rest of the top ten, are from the US except Cambridge and Oxford. The US accounts for 34 of the first 50 and close to 150 of the top 500.

As per last year Australia has four in the top 50 but 20 in the top 500, one more than in 2014. The new arrival is QUT, which arrives in the rankings with a strong showing on publications.

As usual, the University of Melbourne is the Australian local hero at 44, unchanged from last year. It is followed by ANU at 77, down from 74, UoQ, 77, up from 85, UWA 87 up from 88, Monash, UNSW and the University of Sydney in the 101-150 group with the University of Adelaide in the 150-200 group.

After the Group of Eight it is less a gulf than a chasm to universities in the 200-300 range, Curtin, Macquarie and Wollongong. There is then a cluster of campuses; between 300-400, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, James Cook, Swinburne, Newcastle, Tasmania and UTS. QUT enters the elite in the 401-500 bracket.

But even with a big bunch at the backend of the top 500 over half Australia’s universities are in the global leader group.

The ARWU is the ranking of choice for research-intensive institutions being based on Nobel laureates and Field medallists among graduates and staff, academics with highly cited papers on the Thomson Reuters and publications. It assesses performance of 1200 universities around the world and reports on the top 500.

First to be pleased

The University of Adelaide was quick to celebrate its success, pointing out that it was the only South Australian institution to make the top 200 thanks, “to the fierce tenacity of Adelaide’s exceptional research groups.” Vice Chancellor Warren Bebbington said the university intended to break the 150 barrier by 2024. It was followed by the University of Tasmania, which was pleased to be up three spots to 305. “While rankings can often rise and fall from year to year, the sustained improvement we have seen in our standing over time speaks to a real lift in the reputation of the university,” VC Peter Rathjen said Saturday.