THE World University Rankings

One of the things that I have been keen to do as editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings is to engage as much as possible with our harshest critics.

August 26, 2010

Our editorial board was trenchant in its criticism of our old rankings. In particular, Ian Diamond, principal of the University of Aberdeen and former chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, was scathing about our use of research citations.

The old system failed to normalise data to take account of the dramatically different citation volumes between different disciplines, he said - unfairly hitting strong work in fields with lower average figures. We listened, learned and have corrected this weakness for the 2010 rankings.

Another strong critic is blogger Richard Holmes, an academic at the Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia. Through his University Ranking Watch blog, he has perhaps done more than anyone to highlight the weaknesses in existing systems: indeed, he highlighted many of the problems that helped convince us to develop a new methodology with a new data provider, Thomson Reuters.

He has given us many helpful suggestions as we develop our improved methodology. For example, he advised that we should reduce the weighting given to the proportion of international students on campus, and we agreed. He added that we should increase the weighting given to our new teaching indicators, and again we concurred.

Of course, there are many elements that he and others will continue to disagree with us on, and we welcome that. We are not seeking anyone's endorsement. We simply ask for open engagement - including criticism - and we expect that process will continue long after the new tables are published.

Phil Baty is editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

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