by Leigh Sullivan
Over the past few years the 30-year-old University of Canberra has, by anyone’s judgement, rocketed up the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
UC first entered them in 2016, in the 501-600 band. Yesterday it ranked at 193, number 10 in Australia, putting it in the world’s top 1 percent.
UC has achieved a parallel increase in in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) rankings system, it’s now the world’s fastest rising university in the top 500.
The university’s performance is a direct result of its Research Foundation Plan (2013-2017) – “to be world ranked as a young university by 2018” and UC’s current research plan (2018-2022) “to be ranked in the top 50 Young Universities Under 50 within the decade”.
Actions in place from 2013 place a strong emphasis on providing strategic support for research excellence in a few select research areas where UC has strong capability.
Enhanced citation performance is a key driver of UC’s performance. For small universities like UC, recruiting and retaining academics with outstanding research performance will see strong performances in those global university ranking systems that normalise for university size (including THE and QS systems).
Particularly notable is the continuing and substantial improvement in citation performance of UC’s academics as a whole. Even when the citation metrics of our ’research stars’ are excluded, average citations over the past 6 years has risen by 60 per cent.
Citations, however, were not the only driver of UC’s improvement in the THE rankings for 2020: UC ranked in the top 120 universities globally for ‘International outlook’ (7.5% of assessment), and was in the top 330 universities for ‘Research’ (30% of assessment).
Of course, what goes up can also go down: as we all know, universities can experience considerable shifts in their rankings over time and from year to year, both as their performance, and that of others, varies and when assessment methodologies of the ranking systems change. A considerable challenge for UC will be to maintain its current standing and continue to build on its considerable strengths.
Professor Sullivan is DVC Research and Innovation at the University of Canberra