Yale is the second-best university in the world, according to a ranking of the world’s higher-education institutions released last week by a British education publication.
Yale’s favorable ranking — which tied it with the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge — reflects the University’s efforts to internationalize, which factored heavily into the survey’s results, the report’s editor said. Harvard again placed first in the rankings, compiled by the Times of London Higher Education Supplement.
Despite being pleased with Yale’s placement, several University administrators said they think the rankings are not meaningful indicators of a school’s worth.
The University’s position in the rankings has improved in each year since the report was first released in 2004. The University finished fourth last year and in the rankings’ first two years came in eighth and seventh, respectively.
Universities are graded on their international appeal, said Martin Ince, a contributing editor for the Times who edits the rankings.
“Yale is one of the very few U.S. universities that is attractive to many overseas staff and overseas students,” Ince said. “This is a consistent result over several years.”
The rankings are based on reviews by more than 5,100 professors and 1,480 corporate recruiters worldwide, as well as of a university’s student-to-faculty ratio, its percentage of international students and faculty, and the number of academic citations faculty members’ works.
Faculty and business recruiters gave Yale superb ratings, Ince told the News. Harvard’s only advantage over Yale was the number of times its faculty members were cited in journals and other publications, he said.
“When you get a score that good, you really don’t have any substantial weaknesses,” Ince said.
But University administrators downplayed the importance of the rankings. They may be “pleasing,” Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said, but they do not determine the value of an institution.
“The ranking itself can obscure the real meaning of a university to applicants, admirers and even to faculty and current students,” Butler said. “By definition, rankings represent a fiction, albeit interesting and sometimes even compelling in their lemming-like lure.”
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said he does not think Yale’s rise from eighth a few years ago to second today has significant meaning. He too said he puts little stock in college rankings.
“What bothers me most about rankings is the illusion that formulaic comparisons of very different institutions provides information useful for making choices,” Brenzel said.
The concept of rating universities has come under fire in recent years from dozens of university presidents, many of whom cite the U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of top schools as damaging to how high school students make their college choices.
In those rankings, Yale placed third this year, trailing both Princeton and Harvard.
Ince said the Times’ rankings are more influential among graduate students and faculty overseas than they are with American high-school students looking to choose an American university to attend. The release of the rankings received heavy coverage in the foreign media, particularly in England.
Among the Ivies, Princeton was next, in sixth place — an improvement of four places from 2006. Princeton was followed by Columbia University at 11th, the University of Pennsylvania at 14th, Cornell University at 20th and Brown University at 32nd. Dartmouth fell ten places, to 71st overall.
Other American universities to receive top rankings included the University of Chicago and Caltech, in seventh place, the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, in 10th, Duke, in 13th, Johns Hopkins University, in 15th and Stanford, in 19th.
The Times’ rankings were compiled in conjunction with Quacquarelli Symonds, a London-based careers and education company.