Oxbridge rivalry over reputations

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New rankings for world universities were released last week by The Times Higher Education Supplement, with the University of Cambridge three rungs higher than the University of Oxford in the World Reputation rankings.

Harvard University topped the table, landing an overall reputation score of 100.0, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a score of 85.0. Cambridge was awarded a score of 80.7 in third place, whilst Oxford scored 68.6 in sixth place.

A spokesperson for Cambridge commented on their website, “We are pleased that more than 13,000 academics have ranked Cambridge third in the world and the highest ranking institution in the UK, a reflection of the excellence of the world-class teaching and research that takes place and tribute to our staff and students.”

Claiming to be the first to analyse the reputations of world universities, THE used an invitation-only survey, compiled of more than 13,000 academics in 131 countries. The overall reputation of world universities was based on “reputation for teaching” (33.3% of overall score) and “reputation for research” (66.6% of overall score).

There were some significant differences between these rankings and the THE World University Rankings (WUR). For example, the London School of Economics came 87th in the WUR but 37th in the reputation rankings. Unlike the reputation rankings, the WUR takes into account what THE refers to as ‘13 separate performance indicators’.

Milan Thomas, a fourth year Economics student at Cambridge, although elated that his university was ranked higher than rival Oxford, admitted that there could be some bias in the survey.

“These rankings are based solely on reputation data collected from a select sub-sample of experienced academics. These academics may be making picks based on perceptions dating back to their days as students, so that there is a bias in favour of older, established institutions with a wealth of past successes at the expense of younger (but nevertheless prolific in the modern day) centres of research.”

Some commentators have also questioned whether the scores were more a measure of how well known the institutions were, rather than an indicator of perceived quality.

Erica Gilman, an international student at Wadham College, commented on the method used to create the new rankings, “You cannot properly rank US and UK schools on the same list because the two countries offer such differing methods of teaching.

“This survey does not take into account smaller liberal arts colleges that have smaller classes and different teaching methods.”

THE maintains that the World Reputation Rankings “are based on the largest global survey of academic opinion ever undertaken”, and are a clear gauge of world universities’ “reputation for academic excellence.”

Oxford University declined to comment on the new rankings.

 

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