May 16, 2012

The World's Top Colleges and Universities

The University of Maryland soundly beats UVa in both "world" rankings.
Evaluating colleges for the world stage is even trickier than devising a national ranking of colleges.  And US News & World Report claims to do both.

To illustrate how different two rankings can be, compare the USNWR ranking with that sponsored by Thomson Reuters.  Although many of the usual suspects appear on both lists and Harvard has earned a second place on each, the rankings and colleges included among the top 15 universities in the world don’t exactly match.  

And beyond the top 15, the lists completely diverge.  For example, on the USNWR list, the University of Virginia comes in at 126, while Thomson Reuters places it at 135—both rankings far below UVa’s usual state school rivals.  Maryland, on the other hand, comes in at 113 on USNWR and 94 on Thomson Reuters.  Go figure.

Maybe it’s a question of metrics—what’s important for one organization isn’t as important for the other so information is weighted differently.  Or perhaps it’s simply the enormity of the task.  But most likely, it’s the silliness of the entire endeavor.

Regardless, the use of rankings to make college decisions is not a good plan.  As evident in scandals involving information submitted through the CDS, rankings can be based on data that’s been manipulated, altered, or just plain wrong.

Instead of taking someone else’s opinion about what makes a best college in the world or elsewhere, decide for yourself what makes a best college—for you!

  1. Cambridge University
  2. Harvard University
  3. MIT
  4. Yale
  5. Oxford
  6. Imperial College of London
  7. University College London
  8. University of Chicago
  9. University of Pennsylvania
  10. Columbia
  11. Stanford
  12. California Institute of Technology
  13. Princeton
  14. Michigan
  15. Cornell
World Ranking
  1. California Institute of Technology
  2.  Harvard University and Stanford University
  3. Oxford
  4.  Princeton
  5.  Cambridge University
  6. MIT
  7.  Imperial College of London
  8. Chicago
  9.  UC Berkeley
  10. Yale
  11. Columbia
  12. UCLA
  13. Johns Hopkins University
  14. ETH Zurich—Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

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