The Conversation | 5 March 2013
Harvard University has been listed first in the world and the University of Melbourne first in Australia in the 2013 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings.
The reputation rankings are a spin-off from the Times Higher Education highly regarded annual university rankings. This is the third time it has been published.
The rankings based on 16,639 responses from academics living in 144 countries to an email survey conducted by Thomson Reuters in March and April last year.
Only selected senior researchers are invited to take part in the email survey, according to a press release issued by Times Higher Education.
“This ranking is based purely on subjective judgement, but it is the expert judgement of those who know excellence in teaching and research better than anyone else,” said Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education rankings.
Harvard University was followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University.
The same institutions have appeared in the top six since the World Reputation Rankings began in 2011 and 43 of the top 100 in 2013 were US universities.
The University of Melbourne was Australia’s top ranked institution, with a placing of 39, up from the 43rd spot last year.
The Australian National University was next with a ranking of 42, up from 44 last year.
The University of Sydney was placed 49th, up from 50th last year. The University of Queensland was ranked in the 71-80 band, the University of NSW in the 81-90 band and Monash University in the 90-100 band.
The University of Tokyo was the top ranked institution in Asia, ranked ninth.
Gwilym Croucher, Higher Education Policy Adviser in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor
at the University of Melbourne said that Australian universities have struggled at times to gain international recognition of their quality.
“We’ve sometimes done better by objective measures than is reflected in our reputation,” he said.
“It is best to always take any ranking with a grain of salt. But as far as they go, rankings are another useful barometer for the health of higher education in Australia.”
Mr Croucher said older and bigger universities are often at an advantage in reputation rankings.
“It is nice when Australia is acknowledged on the world stage. But thankfully government funding decisions are not off the back of reputation rankings, which can be very fickle,” he said.
Dr Andrew Norton, director of the Higher Education at the Grattan Institute said he was sceptical of university ranking tables “but they do have some influence on institutional behaviour and staff and student choices.”
“Some international students consider university rankings when choosing universities. The improved position of some Australian universities will help them attract students willing to pay high fees,” he said.
“However it remains true that no international university ranking is a good guide to teaching quality. The Times Higher Education rankings include a teaching component, but there are no globally comparable measures of learning or student satisfaction. Input measures such as student-to-staff ratios are an unsatisfactory alternative.”