While Yale has traditionally sat near the top of the U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings, the publication’s inaugural list of the best global universities ranks Yale at number 17.
The list, released Tuesday, marks the first time that U.S. News — known for their annual rankings of American colleges — compiled data in order to display how universities compare with one another on a global scale. Five hundred collegiate institutions spanning a total of 49 countries are featured in the rankings, with Harvard ranked first, followed by MIT at number two and the University of California Berkeley at number three. Aside from Harvard, Yale is also ranked beneath two other Ivy League schools, Columbia (10) and Princeton (13).
Robert Morse, U.S. News Director of Data Research, said the methodology used in determining the global rankings was very different from the methodology used to produce the U.S. News Best Colleges list — a domestic ranking that takes various components of the undergraduate experience into account. The new ranking is almost wholly quantitative, focusing on each university’s research output and reputation worldwide, he said.
“The main reason we picked this particular methodology is that [the data] we use in our best colleges [list], which is very specific to the undergraduate experience, is not available globally to compare schools,” Morse said. “Admissions, faculty, class sizes, salaries, graduation retention rates — they’re not available to compare across borders … The main factor you can compare globally is bibliometrics, measuring academic performance and productivity.”
While Yale ranked 10th in global research reputation, it fell to numbers as low as 108th for international collaboration and 593rd for number of Ph.Ds awarded per academic staff member.
Administrators interviewed said these low rankings are due to Yale’s small size in comparison to the other research institutions featured on the list as opposed to evidence of failure to reach out globally.
“The methodology of the ranking skews its accuracy and calls into question its value as a reflection of a school’s quality,” said Pamela Schirmeister, associate dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “In this ranking, for example, more than 50 percent of a university’s place depends on factors related to publications, the first of which is sheer number. The larger the university’s faculty, the more publications it will have, and that number in turn affects four other ranking factors that contribute more than 50 percent of the weight in rankings.”
Yale School of Public Health Dean Paul Cleary also said he thought the methodology of the rankings was flawed, as the use of absolute numbers, such as the total number of citations, immediately gives larger universities like Harvard and UCLA an advantage.
Morse attributed Yale’s ranking to its focus on less research-centric fields, such as English and history.
“Yale may be negatively impacted by this methodology because of its focus on the social sciences and humanities, which aren’t fields that use this system,” he said.
Schirmeister said most students applying to graduate school are more concerned with the quality of the specific field they wish to pursue, so the fact that Yale is ranked 17th as a whole will probably not play much of a role in their decision-making. She also said most applicants choose based on specific faculty members and their knowledge about the specifics of individual departments, making rankings irrelevant, both for students applying from within the U.S. or internationally.
Administrators also questioned Yale’s ranking as 108th in international collaboration. Shana Schneider, communications director for the Office of International Affairs, said Yale has successful collaborations all around the world, including in China, Brazil, Singapore, Mexico and the UK.
But Sandy Wongwaiwate ’17, an international student from Thailand, said she believes Yale could make more efforts to reach out abroad.
“I think Yale is beginning to expand more internationally, but it is still behind other top schools, for example Harvard,”
Wongwaiwate said. Wongwaiwate added that she consulted online rankings when applying to colleges.
Madeline Tomlinson ’17, a student from England, said that while she did not look at college rankings when applying to college, she had already known that Yale was supposedly one of the best universities in the United States, which was part of what attracted her to the school.
Isabel Hummel ’17, a student from Germany, said she thinks international applicants would pay attention to the global rankings, due to the investment these students are preparing to make when they study abroad in the United States. Because most schools in Europe are either free or relatively inexpensive, international students want to make sure they’re getting the best of the best when they come to America, Hummel said.
Michael Goran, director of and founder of Ivy Select college counseling, said the international students he works with often look at the rankings and sometimes mistake them as the official U.S. ranking of American universities. Still, Goran said it was unlikely that the rankings would affect Yale’s number of international applicants.
“The overarching thing is that the focus [of the global rankings] is not on the separate undergraduate or graduate programs, but specifically on the school’s academic research and reputation,” Goran said. “On the undergraduate level, is that going to affect international applicants coming to the states? I sincerely don’t think so.”
The new list also includes rankings of specific subjects offered by universities.
Yale’s psychology program was ranked third globally, while immunobiology tied for fifth. Frank Keil, chairman of the psychology department, said that while it is difficult to know exactly what to make of such rankings, he was pleased to see Yale’s department ranked so highly. Still, he added that he does not think the ranking will change anything within the department.
Richard Flavell, chairman of the immunobiology department, said he was proud of what he and his colleagues have created together, and that he is confident that Yale’s immunology program is one of the best in the world.
Yale is ranked third in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings.