The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16 will be bigger than ever – much bigger.
I can confirm that the rankings, published at 21.00 (BST) on 30 September (and launched at the THE World Academic Summit in Melbourne on 1 October) will include a total of 800 universities. That’s double the 400 institutions included each year in the rankings since 2011, and four times bigger than the top 200 list we published between 2004 and 2010.
The move, at a stroke, ensures that the global rankings are truly global. They will be far more inclusive than in the past. The top 800 list will include institutions from 70 different countries, compared with 41 countries that made last year’s top 400. Institutions from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana and many more will be included for the first time in the THE rankings.
The dramatic deepening of the list also means that countries struggling to break the US-UK domination of the higher echelons of the rankings will be better represented, with many more institutions from China, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, India and Thailand (to pick just one continent) able to benchmark themselves more effectively using THE’s trusted global data benchmarks.
This dramatic expansion of the rankings has been made possible by THE’s outstanding in-house data team. As I wrote last month, since bringing the annual institutional data collection in house for the first time late last year, we have collected data for the 2015-16 rankings from a total of 1,128 institutions from 88 countries, which provided well over 100,000 data points for us to work with.
Although we look forward to working closely with all 1,128 institutions, and to expanding the list even more next year, it would not be responsible to rank all 1,128 in the overall World University Rankings, and some are not eligible.
The rankings methodology is designed to examine the performance of world-class research universities, with a heavy emphasis in the indicators on research, and we are sticking with our previous requirement that only institutions that have published at least 200 research papers a year (in journals indexed by Elsevier in its Scopus database) over a five year window, can be included in the overall world rankings.
This helps ensure the statistical rigour of the analysis and means that we are comparing similarly research-focused institutions. Additional institutions from the database may be included in future regional or specialised rankings and analyses, but for now we believe it is responsible to stop the list at 800 institutions to ensure meaningful, rigorous comparisons while ensuring as wide a range of institutions and countries as possible are included.
But be warned: it is clear that the previous institutional database, managed by a third-party data provider, missed out a significant number of excellent universities that deserved a place among the top 400. This means that the 400 debut institutions this year will not all just tack neatly and conveniently onto the bottom of the 2014-15 top 400 list. Our improved engagement with the global university community and our improved data collection activities have provided a clearer picture and helped to highlight some new global star performers.
A small number of institutions making their debut in the rankings this year have made the top 200, and many more make the 300-400 group. This means that many institutions ranked last year may have fallen down the list simply because we have included institutions for the first time that outrank them.
We are keen to keep the rankings as stable as possible, to allow for meaningful comparisons over time, and we are limiting methodological changes (watch this space for details). But we are satisfied that this bold move to widen the reach of the rankings and to provide more of our trusted data on more institutions across more countries is the right way to go.
Phil Baty is editor of the THE World University Rankings.