World rankings place Univ. seventh

Yale moved up a spot to seventh place in an annual British survey of world university rankings, with Harvard taking the top spot again.

The University also trailed behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford University, Cambridge University, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley in the standings, which were released by the London Times Higher Education Supplement. The rankings are primarily based on a survey of more than 2,000 academics from across the world, the number of times university faculty are cited in academic papers, and faculty to student ratio, Martin Ince, who helped to compile the survey results, said. The survey also added professional recruiters’ preferences as a new criterion this year.

Yale President Richard Levin said he thinks the survey’s excessive emphasis on science harmed the University’s ranking.

“Since these surveys tend to put extremely heavy weight on scientific publications, [and are] very overweighted towards science as opposed to humanities or social sciences, Yale tends to be at a relative disadvantage,” Levin said.

But Ince said the criterion that is most likely to favor science-oriented schools — recruiters’ views — offer results that may be surprising.

“That would be a reasonable supposition, but in fact the winning institution is Harvard and the second is Stanford,” he said. “Caltech is probably the most specialist university [and it] got a very low score.”

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said he thinks university rankings serve a limited purpose in comparing elite institutions.

“It seems to me that various media surveys are truly of limited use in evaluating the top universities,” Brenzel said. “Especially with respect to the world’s very best universities, of which Yale is certainly one, the relevant institutions are distinctive in so many ways that I believe trying to rank order them is pointless.”

Some students said they think that Yale’s spot in the ranking is due to the increased emphasis on the sciences in Europe.

“I think these rankings show a difference of priorities between the U.S. and Europe with the importance of science and math in education,” Robin Swartout ’07 said.

Swartout is a contributing photographer for the News.

Rachel Sam ’09, who lives in Paris, said she was not surprised that Harvard placed first, because it is the most well-known American university in Europe.

“Most people in Europe think of Harvard as the top American university by default,” she said. “Few can name many other schools.”

Still, some students said they question the validty of some of the criteria used in the survey.

Kim Bloom-Feshbach ’09 said she does not think a university’s level of research always translates into quality teaching.

“I don’t think there is necessarily a direct correlation between the quality of teaching and the frequency of faculty’s research papers cited by academics,” Bloom-Feshbach said.

Ince said he thinks a university’s level of research is important, but the inclusion of faculty’s citations might unfairly advantage medical and Anglophone schools.

U.S. schools accounted for 54 of the top 200 institutions, the most for an individual country. The United Kingdom had the second highest total with 24 schools, and Australia placed third with 17. All of the ranked institutions are in the United States, Canada, Europe or Australia.

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