Gauging the international perception of Yale, a worldwide ranking of 200 universities released Thursday placed the University eighth, seven places below number one Harvard.
The first ever World University Ranking by the Times Higher Education Supplement, a British publication, awarded seven of the top 10 rankings to American universities. The rankings were based primarily on the results of an opinion poll asking 1,300 academics from 88 countries to rate the top universities in their fields. Other factors taken into account in the ranking include the number of a university’s research citations in academic journals, the student-faculty ratio, and the proportion of international students and staff, said John O’Leary, the editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement. Rounding out the top five were the University of California-Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of Oxford.
Although Yale was ranked third in the student-faculty ratio category, it came in ninth place in the opinion poll which made up half of the total ranking score, O’Leary said.
Yale University President Richard Levin said he did not know the details or the reliability of the ranking methods.
“You can make these rankings come out any way you want,” Levin said. “If you focus on science and engineering, it’s not surprising. If you focus on either a broader spectrum of arts and science disciplines, undergraduate education or a count of professional schools, Yale, I think would rank higher.”
Yale Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said it was “pretty spectacular” that Yale was among the top 10 universities in the world and he was not overly concerned that Harvard was ranked above Yale.
“If we’re in the top cohort in the world that’s good news,” Shaw said. “The gradations between one institution and another [in rankings] are not too meaningful.”
Joshua Brody ’07, who is from England, said he was not surprised the ranking placed Harvard ahead of Yale given that it was based primarily on opinion polls.
“When you tell people in England that you go to Yale most of them have never heard of it, whereas if you tell them you go to Harvard, everyone has heard of it,” Brody said.
But Katherine Jenkins ’08, who lived in England for nine years, said she thought the majority of people in England considered Yale to be “pretty illustrious.”
“It would produce a similar reaction to someone in America saying they would go to Oxford,” Jenkins said. “It has a pretty good reputation.”
Brody also said he found it unusual the British newspaper ranked more than one American university above Oxford and Cambridge.
“That’s not like the British — especially with their current attitude in Britain towards Americans,” Brody said.
Zachary Zwillinger ’07 said it was “bunk” to compare universities that are so different.
“[Yale] has a culture and an experience on its own,” Zwillinger said. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”
The rankings were started this year to respond to universities’ growing demand to “gauge themselves internationally,” O’Leary said. He said one of the impetuses for the ranking was a report released recently by the British government recommending international benchmarks to measure the strength of British universities in relation to American universities.
The top 200 universities are located in 29 countries, and the United States, England, Germany and Australia lead in the number of top 200 universities.