History September 29, 2017: McGill University announces tenth annual Cundill History Book Prize finalists




McGill University announces tenth annual Cundill History Book Prize finalists

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS

McGill University is celebrating the 10th anniversary of world’s richest history book prize, the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature. The university announced the 2017 long list finalists on Sept. 26, will announce the top three on Oct. 26, and the winner on Nov. 16. McGill University 

The richest history book prize in the world just announced their long list finalists for the tenth annual award. Canada’s McGill University announced on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, ten long list finalists for their $75,000 American annual international Cundill Prize in Historical Literature for history non-fiction books published in the last year. This year’s finalists include historians from five countries including one from Montreal on a variety of topics, areas and periods, although religious history is prominent among the finalists chosen.

The prize is open to any authored history book across the globe. For the tenth anniversary, the university “rebranded” the prize to “illuminate the truth at a time in world affairs when informed, factual debate is increasingly losing out to populism and retrenchment is on the rise.” A jury of five historiansdetermines who wins the book prize. Canadian historian and Oxford University professor Margaret MacMillan is chairing this year’s jury. The jury is predominantly British, with Oxford University professors Roy Foster and Rana Mitter, but includes one American British-American historian and columnist Amanda Foreman and one Canadian, journalist Jeffrey Simpson. The Cundill Prize also has a committee of McGill faculty members.

This year’s long list was shortened from a record 330 submissions, double the amount McGill received for their 2016 prize. Jury Chair MacMillan remarked about the quantity and quality of the books under consideration. MacMillan said, “Our long list reflects the exciting and varied state of history today. The books on it cover subjects from Vietnam to Native American history and range in time from prehistory to the present. Their outstanding men and women authors come from around the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for our jury to whittle down over 300 entries into 10 but I am happy that we have come up with such a strong and interesting selection.”

The long list heavily features religious history with three books included, Christopher de Ballaigue’s The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times (WW Norton), Lyndal Roper’s Martin Luther (Bodley Head), and Frances FitzGerald In The Evangelicals (S&S US). This year’s finalists include one book by an academic at neighboring Université du Québec à Montréal, Christopher Goscha’s Vietnam: A New History. American published books dominate the list with six, four published in Britain, and only one from Canada.

Jury member Mitter counters saying the list is varied and global. Mitter commented, “As a historian of China I’m particularly delighted at how wide the geographical range of these books are. All are outstanding in quality. I note in terms of range that we have a long study of Vietnam, a major country in Southeast Asia that is little understood in the west; an examination of Islam over several centuries; and an analysis of inequality that draws on material from China as well as the west. In addition, North America and Europe are richly represented. This is a very global list.”

The long list will be further narrowed down to three short finalists on October 26. MacMillan will announce the finalists at a “press conference at Canada House in London.” McGill will then announce the winner at a gala in Montreal on Nov. 16 after a lecture by the top three on Nov. 15. All three finalists will be winners as each runner-up receives a Recognition of Excellence Award and $10,000 American. Qualifying and winning books have to include “historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal.” The prize was “founded by McGill alumnus F. Peter Cundill,” with the first prize was announced in 2008.

Cundill Prize Finalists

Black Elk by Joe Jackson, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Thompson, Pantheon Books
Martin Luther by Lyndal Roper, Bodley Head
Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel, Allen Lane
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald, Simon & Schuster US
The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsar by Daniel Beer, Allen Lane
The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times by Christopher de Bellaigue, W. W. Norton & Company
Vietnam: A New History by Christopher Goscha, Basic Books
Russia in Revolution: An Empire in Crisis, 1890 to 1928 by Stephen Smith, Oxford University Press
The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Schneidel, Princeton University Press

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.


Education September 27, 2017: Harvard tops the 2018 Wall Street Journal, Times Higher Education second annual US college ranking




Harvard tops the 2018 Wall Street Journal, Times Higher Education second annual US college ranking

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Harvard University is replacing the country’s most selective university Stanford as the nation’s top university and is again regaining the preeminent top position in the public’s eyes. Wikipedia Commons 

Another ranking has returned America’s crown jewel Harvard University to the top of university rankings charts. In their second edition, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education college rankings named Harvard University their best college beating out last year’s school Stanford University as the rivalry between the two most selective universities in the country continues in this year’s ranking season. WSJ and THE released their second annual joint ranking of American colleges on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. The top ten included some of the country’s most elite universities including six belonging to the Ivy League. Harvard is regaining control in national rankings also topping Forbes American Top College in 2017 for the first time.

Besides Harvard, there are six other schools in the Northeast in the top ten including five more from the Ivy League. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and ivies Columbia, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Cornell reign the top ten. Only three schools outside the elite location made the top ten including two from California, Stanford, the California Institute of Technology and North Carolina’s Duke University representing the South. Harvard gained ground in the engagement and environment categories boosting it back to the top of the rankings. Stanford lost ground and first place in the resources and outcomes categories.

The top ten has changed around drastically since the WSJ/THE Inaugural ranking with Harvard moving up from second place to number one and former top school Stanford slides to third place. In second is Columbia University who moves up from fifth, three spots to second place. Stanford does not have the third place alone it shares it with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who moves down one from last year. Rounding out the top five is Duke University moving up two to the fifth spot.

In the second half of the top ten Yale University remains in the sixth place. The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is the only new school in the top ten moving up five spots from 12 to seventh place. The University of Pennsylvania moves down four to eighth place. US News and World Report’s Best College Princeton University remains at the ninth place. Cornell University completes the top ten moving down two spots. Last year’s tenth place school Northwestern University moved out of the top ten tumbling to number 15 in the ranking.

The majority of the schools in the top 30 are private, as well as the entire top 10. The only public schools in the top 30 are the University of California-Los Angeles, which is the top ranking public school this year coming in at №25 and last year’s top public school the University of Michigan at №27. UCLA moved up three from №28 last year, while Michigan moves down five from №22. Rounding out the top three public schools are the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill falling three out of the top 30 to №33.

Public schools in general did not fare well in the rankings with 80 out of the bottom 100 being public universities. Phil Baty, Editorial Director, Global Rankings, Times Higher Education sees this as a “serious” problem in the US, “The fact that there are only two publics in the top 30 is part of the narrative that there is a crisis in public higher education. We are seeing some real challenges in terms of resources, and I think this kind of inequality, this defunding of great American public schools, is a serious issue.” This issue is important because public schools are the ones accepting more racially and socioeconomically diverse students than private colleges, particularly the California state system. As Baty notes, “It’s an incredible story of access. But again, the schools with the greatest access are starved of funds. The privates are less inclusive.”

The WSJ/THE ranking is one of the many rankings that now focuses heavily on the outcomes of getting a degree from one the institutions on their list, as Return on Investment (ROI) takes center stage in more rankings. This year WSJ emphasized their ranking examines “how well a college will prepare students for life after graduation.” What sets the WSJ/ THE ranking apart is the survey that asks “the extent to which they felt engaged in their education.” Last year, 10,000 participated in the survey, this year, 109,000 were involved.

The methodology includes four main categories and 15 individual factors. WSJ explains the methodology’s marking system, “40 per cent of each school’s overall score comes from student outcomes, including a measure of graduate salaries, 30 per cent from the school’s academic resources, 20 per cent from how well it engages its students and 10 per cent from the diversity of its students and staff.”

Some factors included in the ranking are the “salaries of graduates and debt repayment rates, school reputation, research impact, and how much a college spends to educate each student.” According to the WSJ, colleges are specifically marked on the following categories “alumni earnings, debt burdens, student engagement, resources, diversity of students and faculty, and academic reputation.” This year WSJ/THE added a new factor, “graduates’ ability to repay student debt” in their methodology under the outcomes category. Over 1,000 colleges were included in the ranking.

Expanding from last year, the WSJ/THE has six other rankings in addition to their overall ranking. They include “The Best Public Colleges in the U.S., The Colleges Whose Graduates Do Best Financially, Colleges Where Students Are Most Inspired by Their Peers, Colleges Where Students Feel Challenged, Public Universities Do Best When It Comes to Diversity, and Colleges That Prioritize Internships.”

UCLA, Michigan, and UNC are the top public colleges. California is tops when it comes to top most diverse students with La Sierra University on the top and seven California public schools in the top 12. Students are the most challenged at Dordt College in Iowa and Texas Christian University. While Kettering University, Endicott College are the top schools That Prioritize Internships preparing their students for work after college. The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, however, is the top school for elevating income for graduates, while Harvard and Duke are the best universities for graduates to do best financially overall.

The rankings are based on specific categories, Resources, Student Outcomes, Engagement, and Environment. The top results like last year are a mix of private Ivy League and private universities, and small little-known public colleges. Harvard University remains first when it comes to Resources. There was a new number one in the Student Outcomes category with Yale University out and Harvard and Duke vying and tying for first. The outcomes category most mirrors the overall top ten with most of the universities appearing in the lists top 11 with one addition, Williams College tied for ninth, but came in at №22 overall.

The Ivy League schools did not dominate the entire ranking with public schools outweighing them in two categories, Engagement and Environment. For a second year, Dordt College is the top school in Engagement, but was only №393 overall in the ranking. La Sierra University is still the best school for Environment although it does not even rank in the top 600. Environment examines whether a school is racially and socioeconomically diverse but also looks at “staff and the proportion of international students.” Ironically, none of the schools in the top five even made the Environment category’s top 50.

Dave Pettit, Editor of Specialized News Products, The Wall Street Journal discussed this year’s ranking in the press release. Pettit explained, “With so many schools to choose from and countless factors to consider, selecting the right college requires careful consideration and a lot of research. The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings are designed to help make the selection process easier and less intimidating.”

Baty, Editorial Director, Global Rankings, at the Times Higher Education commented, on what makes their ranking unique. Baty said, “In our first year, the Journal and THE were lauded for shaking up U.S. rankings. Unlike traditional competitors, we have built these rankings around a huge survey based on 200,000 current student voices, giving us a student’s eye view of teaching, learning, and life on campus. It gives a rounded and practical understanding of the strengths of individual institutions and the lifelong value of a degree.”

The WSJ/THE were quick to address the differences between their ranking and US News and World Report’s flagship ranking of American colleges and universities, specifically the discrepancies between their positioning of universities. The most noticeable difference is Princeton, who has topped US News’ ranking for several years, but was only number nine in the WSJ/THE ranking, because their engagement rank was a disappointing number 533.

The main reason for the differences all amounts to the methodologies each ranking uses to calculate national position. Carnegie Mellon, who came in at number 20, but number 25 under US News summed up well the reasons for the differences and the problems with rankings in a statement. The statement read, “Some rankings are designed purely for entertainment, little more than internet photo galleries. Others make a more serious effort at collecting information. Even where rankings do collect objective statistics such as test scores or costs, the choice of which factors to include in a ranking, and how those factors are weighted, remains subjective.”

WSJ/THE US College Rankings 2018 top 10:

1. Harvard University (6)
2. Columbia University (5)
3. Stanford University (1)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie) (2)
5. Duke University (7)
6. Yale University (6)
7. California Institute of Technology (12)
8. University of Pennsylvania (4)
9. Princeton University (9)
10. Cornell University (8)

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education September 12, 2017: Oxford and Cambridge reign atop Times Higher Education’s 2018 World University Rankings as the US tumbles




Oxford and Cambridge reign atop Times Higher Education’s 2018 World University Rankings as the US tumbles

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

For the second year, Oxford University is the world’s best topping Times Higher Education (THE) 2017/18 World University Rankings. (Wikipedia Commons)

There is new powerhouse couple topping the 2018 edition of Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings. The University of Cambridge joins the reigning university Oxford moving up to second place. For the first time in the ranking’s history, American schools are left out in the cold from the top positions. Times Higher Education (THE) released their 2017/18 World University Rankings on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, and for the second year, Oxford University is the world’s best. With Cambridge in second former five-time honor winner, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) slides to tie for third place with the United States most selective school, Stanford University. The ranking shows an increased pre-eminence for British, European and Asian schools while American schools fall in the ranks.

With Oxford again on top, vice-chancellor Louise Richardson told THE she was “delighted that Oxford has held its position at the top of these global rankings.” Continuing Richardson expressed, “To be judged the best university in the world for the second successive year, against a backdrop in which Britain’s role in the world is uncertain and the place of universities in society open to question, will be a great source of pride for everyone at Oxford, and, I hope, for the whole country.” Richard son concluded, “Success in our field is never an accident, it is “achieved by a relentless pursuit of excellence, creative brilliance and a deep commitment to our enduring values.”

The second half of the top ten stayed mostly the same. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) remains in 5th place, Harvard University stays in sixth, Princeton University in seventh. The Imperial College London also remains in eighth, the University of Chicago in ninth place, and ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is again tied for tenth place. A new university enters the top ten the University of Pennsylvania moves up three to tie for tenth place. While the University of California, Berkeley, who last year tied for tenth moves down eight to 18th place. The top 10 again features one university outside of the United States and the United Kingdom, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.

The biggest news, however, was how for the second year in a row Britain denies the US the top spot, and this year takes the second place. Before the 2017 world ranking the US had the top university for the list’s 12 years. According to the Wall Street Journal, 2018 marks the fifth year, American universities have declined in ranking and number of universities represented in the top 200. In 2014, there were 77 American schools in the top 200 now there are only 62, 15 less in just four years. Despite losing the top two spots, American universities dominate the top 10 and the ranking list in general, but they are losing ground. According to THE “two-fifths of the US institutions in the top 200 (29 out of 62) have dropped places.” Although American universities are still well represented the U.K, Germany and the Netherlands have the most universities in the top 1000.

Part of the reason for this year’s decline was the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump and his travel ban for six Muslim countries. The ranking collected data at the peak of the hysteria, and although immigration remains an issue, the frenzy over the issue subsided. Unfortunately, American schools suffered in the ranking at the height of the backlash over Trump and his policies. However, THE’s methodology relies heavily on funding and American universities saw a drop in their “institutional income,” with the top Caltech and Stanford dropping by 23 to 24 percent. In contrast, British schools saw an infusion of funding, with Oxford receiving 24 percent more and Cambridge 11 percent. The majority of American schools in the top 200, 59 out 62 dropped in the ranking.

Phil Baty, the rankings editor at Times Higher Education, commented on America’s place in the rankings, calling it stagnation. Baty said, “It’s not doom and gloom, the U.S. still dominates the list, but there are clear warning signs and fairly significant flashing red lights that the U.S. is under threat from increasing competition. Asia is rising. It’s a worrying time for stagnation for the U.S.”

Britain and China saw the largest bumps in the rankings. Britain has always been home to the world oldest and some of most prestigious universities. This year 23 of the 24 universities in UK’s Russell Group were in the top 200. There are 31 British schools in the top 200 with 93 in the top 1000. Last year, Brexit was at the forefront but now it is becoming less of an issue at least for now when it comes to attracting students and research. Future funding, an integral part of the THE ranking methodology is still a question for British schools. Whether the funding and professors from the European Union will remain at current rates is still uncertain.

This year China had seven schools in the top 200, up from only two in 2014 and two in the top 30 Peking and Tsinghua both in Bejing. Asia’s top school is the National University of Singapore tied for 22nd place. China, however, according to the WSJ is manufacturing conditions that increase their profiles in world rankings. The Communist government is investing in their universities, and trying to appeal to international students, although the majority of their foreign students are coming from other Asian countries including South Korea, but also the US.

Elizabeth Perry, a professor of Government at Harvard specializing in China, believes the Chinese government is creating conditions to give their universities an edge in the rankings, which she calls gaming. Perry told the WSJ, “They are hiring an army of postdocs whose responsibility is to produce articles. They are changing the nature of a university from an educational institution to basically a factory that is producing what these rankings reward.”

Many university ranking methodologies rely on the number of citations, research, and articles produced by a university to determine their ranking China is mass marketing research, which Xia Qiong, “a professor at Wuhan University in central China” claims is mostly trash. Xia revealed to the WSJ, “Research overly emphasizes quantity, not quality, and accordingly produces a lot of trash and wastes a lot of research funds.”

In Canada, The University of Toronto remains the country’s top school, coming in at tied for 22nd place in the ranking followed by University of British Columbia at number 34, and McGill University, which remains at 42 again this year. McMaster University seems to be joining the esteemed ranks of University of Toronto, British Columbia and McGill University, the big three of Canadian universities. McMaster saw “the largest jump of any school in the top 100” moving into the top 100 for the first time and to number 78, last year McMaster was 113.

The 35 spot move is attributed to McMaster’s Health Sciences research. According to the WSJ, McMaster “created antibiotics to treat infectious diseases and creating molecules that carry radioactive charges designed to detect cancer in very early forms.” This is the second ranking McMaster has seen their numbers rise. Earlier in August, McMaster eclipsed McGill in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) 2018 edition where McMaster moved up an impressive 17 places and took the 66th spot and third place in Canada.

The THE World University Rankings expanded this year’s rankings with more universities from more countries. This year they ranked 1000 school up from 978 last year. The ranking’s methodology involves four leading indicators, “teaching, research, citations and international outlook,” however; research takes precedence over the others. Baty explained the ranking’s successful methodology, “The single biggest individual indicator is research impact. We’re looking at 56 million citations, 11.9 million research publications.” As the Wall Street Journal indicates, THE’s World Rankings differs from American rankings is because it factors “global reach and includes only universities.”

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an offset of the QS World University Ranking. In 2010, Times Higher Education formed a new partnership with Thomson Reuters in 2010 and created a new methodology. The ranking looks at a university’s “teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” Thomson Reuters utilizes 13 indicators to determine the results of the list, they are under five pillars “overall indicators;” “industry income, internationalism, teaching, research, and citations.”

The annual ranking includes ten additional lists covering subject fields, and universities in particular areas in addition to the main World University Rankings, which ranks the top 200 institutions. Subject field lists include; Arts & Humanities, Clinical, Pre-clinical & Health, Engineering & Technology, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and the Social Sciences. Additionally, THE publishes the 150 Under 50, ranking universities established in the past 50 years, US College Rankings, Asia University Rankings, Latin American Rankings, and BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings.

Times Higher Education’s top 10 from their World University Rankings:

1 University of Oxford (U.K.) (1)
2 University of Cambridge (U.K.) (4)
T-3 California Institute of Technology (U.S.) (2)
T-3 Stanford University (U.S.) (3)
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (U.S.) (5)
6 Harvard University (U.S.) (5)
7 Princeton University (U.S.) (7)
8 Imperial College London (U.K.) (8)
9 University of Chicago (U.S.) (9)
T-10 ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Switzerland) (T-10)
T-10 University of Pennsylvania (U.S.) (13)

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Education September 12, 2017: Princeton and Williams again top of US News’ 2018 Best Colleges amid accusations of elitism




By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

U.S. News & World Report again has Princeton University and Williams College topping their list of Best Colleges for 2018. (Wikipedia Commons)

While international university rankings are reporting upheaval, there is one ranking that remains rock solid in its findings, U.S. News & World Report again has Princeton University and Williams College topping their list of Best Colleges. U.S. News, the standard-bearers in the national university and college rankings game released on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, their first of two major college and university rankings for the season, their Best Colleges rankings for 2018 online. Princeton, Williams, and Berkley all saw repeat visits to the top of the rankings. Princeton is №1 of all Best National Universities for the seventh year, while Williams remains atop the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges for the past 15 years. This year’s ranking was rather indecisive with multiple schools vying for a single spot.

Public universities some changes in this year’s ranking. Berkley is no longer the only university in the University of California system helming the Top Public Schools among National Universities; UC Los Angeles, both tying for first place, joins it. Berkley still №1 as it has been for the last 20 years. There is, however, a new king in first place in the Top Public Schools among National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking. The United States Military Academy at West Point takes over from former honor taker the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis as the best public liberal arts college. As much as US News is celebrated for its king maker status it is becoming increasingly under fire for claims that their Best Colleges ranking fuels elitism and shuts out low-income students seeking degrees because they would hinder schools’ quest to rise in the rankings.

The Ivy League and elite universities dominate the Best National Universities. Princeton remains on top, followed by Harvard again in second, while the University of Chicago and Yale continue to tie for third place. Three elite schools now tie for fifth place, Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford. MIT leaped two spots to end up in the top five. The University of Pennsylvania retains the eighth spot, but no longer shares it with Duke University. Duke drops one to fall into ninth place. Rounding out the top ten is the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who moves back up two to retake the tenth place after leaving the top 10 briefly last year. John Hopkins University leaves the top 10, to tie for 11th place. The top thirty has a new school with the New York University joining the esteemed ranks rising six to 30. NYU raised their profile by having additional campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai and marketing themselves as a “new type of global, private research university.”

There are also plenty of colleges tied in the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking, listing the best primary undergraduate schools specializing in the arts and sciences. The top two remain unchanged, with Williams College on top and Amherst in second. Now the third place is a three-way tie with Bowdoin, Swarthmore and Wellesley vying for the one spot. Bowdoin is the greatest gainer in the bunch was Bowdoin moving up from sixth, while Swarthmore moving up one from tied for fourth. Middlebury College loses two positions moving down from tied for fourth to tie with sixth with Pomona College, which moves up one from seventh. Carleton College moves down one to tie for eighth with Claremont McKenna, who moves up from ninth. Two colleges now vie for tenth, Davidson College moves down one, and Washington and Lee University moves up one into the top 10.

In the lists of best public schools, University of California-Berkeley is longer the lone king atop of the Top Public Schools among National Universitiesranking. In its 20th year, Berkley now co-reigns with fellow University of California school, UC Los Angeles, both schools tie for 21st place in the Best National Universities list. UCLA standing rose because this past year it became the first university in the country to receive 100,000 applications for the 2021 freshman class. The University of Virginia maintains its third spot. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor also stays in its spot at fourth, with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill still rounding out the top five.

The ranking’s biggest shake up is the Top Public Schools among National Liberal Arts Colleges list, with the United States Military Academy grabbing up the top spot from the former king the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. West Point ties for 12th on the national ranking. The United States Naval Academy now slips to second and is the 21st school on the national list. This is the first time since 2009–10 that West Point led Annapolis. The United States Air Force Academy remains in third. Another military college the Virginia Military Institute takes the fourth place alone this year. St. Mary’s College of Maryland rounds out the top five.

US News publishes their “Best Colleges” ranking lists in different categories including National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Top Public Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional CollegesA-plus Schools for B StudentsBest Value Schools for universities and liberal arts colleges, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In total, more than 1,800 colleges and universities were profiled.

Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News, commented on the value of the rankings to help with college choice decision making. Kelly explained, “Before taking out student loans or writing a tuition check, families should research graduation and retention rates. These are important indicators of how well a school supports its students both academically and financially.” Continuing Kelly remarked, “Colleges that saddle students with debt but do little to support them through graduation are contributing to a vicious cycle — without that valuable degree, students will have a difficult time landing well-paying jobs and repaying their loans, which puts them in a precarious financial situation early on in their careers.”

Although public universities and liberal arts colleges are given separate lists, the same is not done with private universities and liberal arts colleges. The US News’ ranking categories are based on Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. US News Best Colleges’ methodology involves looking at over 1,800 universities and colleges to create their four rankings; the results are determined by “15 measures of academic quality,” taken from the Common Data Set. The Best Colleges lists rely heavily on “student outcomes” predominantly “graduation and retention rates” which represent 30 percent of the deciding factor in the ranking. The main criterion includes “graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources, financial resources, alumni giving and graduation rate performance.”

This year US News tweaked their methodology adding new elements to give seniors and their parents more information for the college decision making. One factors into the ranking the other does not. For the National Universities under graduation rates US News now looks at the “proportion of degrees awarded in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.”

US News is also dipping into the return on investment (ROI) trend in college rankings and will now provide “salary data for alumni of individual schools, supplied by the online analyst PayScale.” The salary data, however, is still not part of the ranking methodology. Robert Morse, chief data strategist for U.S. News remarked on the new ROI addition, saying. “Using salary as a heavily weighted rankings factor ignores academic quality, which we believe is more important for prospective students and their parents when considering which school to attend.” Morse, however, pointed out, “Not everyone is interested in a high-salaried career. Secondly, the salary data — while important — is not comprehensive enough to do an analytic school-by-school comparison.”

The US News rankings guidebook and companion website include over 50 ranking lists. The methodology US News uses benefits private universities, and the rubrics are “based on school reputation surveys; student selectivity; faculty resources; alumni giving; graduation and retention rates; and total spending per student on education.” In contrast public universities “rely heavily on state funding, often have tighter budgets, far larger enrollment and a broader mandate for accessibility than private institutions.”

US News’ Best Colleges list has become more controversial in recent years because of its focus on the cliché Ivy League and elite universities. As the Washington Post pointed out, calling the ranking “an annual sorting exercise that draws scrutiny from students, parents, and alumni but scorn from critics who say it’s a pointless game of prestige.” A day before the 2018 edition’s release Politico went further in their investigative article “How U.S. News college rankings promote economic inequality on campus.” The article’s subtitle is even more politically loaded, saying, “Once ladders of social mobility, universities increasingly reinforce existing wealth, fueling a backlash that helped elect Donald Trump.”

The article argues that the US News rubrics have become ingrained in universities strategic plans that they “create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.” The top one percent are catering to the top one percent rather than giving an opportunity to the bottom 60 percent. Politico argues that admission decisions and financial priorities are determined by the schools’ ranking aspirations and that is threatening students from middle and low earning families.

Among the criteria most being altered include, “student performance, lower acceptance rates, performing well on surveys, and alumni giving. Despite all the claims of diversity in admissions, the Ivy League is nearly three-quarters filled with the “top quartile of income earners” and only less than five percent from the bottom quartile, with those in the lowest never even going on to complete their bachelor’s degrees if they are started. Private and public schools are continuing the trend just to up their prestige on rankings, primarily US News Best Colleges.

The stereotypical poor and white are the most affected, and as Politico noted fueled the 2016 election that saw Donald Trump rise to the presidency. Walter Benn Michaels, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago told Politico “Elite colleges are part of the apparatus that produces Trumpism and produces working class, white resentment.” While Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation claimed, “It fits perfectly into Trump’s narrative … Basically, if you’re a low-income or working-class white student who works hard and you find out that what matters in admissions is who your daddy is, or what your race is, you’re completely left out.”

Politico’s research concluded US News is the worst of the rankings to continue the descent into economic equality in higher education. US News is one of the oldest and the most prestigious national ranking started in 1983, which the magazine called “the 800-pound gorilla of American higher education.” US News’ methodology factors in university spending on faculty salary and on students, which rises up tuition to the astronomical rates seniors are now facing as they embark on college. Universities are attempting to reap the most rewards by accepting students they know would succeed, the wealthy ones. F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University was the harshest in his opinion, saying, “I think U.S. News has done more damage to the higher education marketplace than any single enterprise that’s out there…. I call it ‘the greatest inefficiency ranking in America.’”

The Politico article accuses US News of stifling the increase in college degrees earned and preventing low-income students from acquiring them. Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford University sociologist called the U.S. News “the machinery that organizes and governs this competition.” Stevens called the ranking a peculiar form of governance” in higher education “because schools essentially use them to make sense of who they are relative to each other. And families use them basically as a guide to the higher education marketplace.” The rankings rubrics have become benchmarks for universities and state governments who yearn for a top ranking university in their midst at the public school level.

US News fiercely denies the negative effects their king maker status has on higher education. Robert Morse on the defensive told Politico, “We’re not setting the admissions standards at any schools. Our main mission for our rankings is to provide information for prospective students and their parents, and we’re measuring academic quality. That’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been doing this for 30 years, and we believe we’ve been driving transparency in higher education data. Our methodology and the data we’ve chosen for the best colleges rankings is to measure which schools are the top in academic excellence.”

US News also denies their methodology affects universities policies, but administrators contradict that claim. Student selectivity has lead universities to accept students with higher scores on the SAT and ACT exams, where students from wealthier families do better because of access to preparation courses, materials, and tutors. The acceptance rate game also plays against low-income students, as acceptance rates have dropped; schools are becoming more selective as more students apply. Early admission and decisions programs are accepting more of the share of students but less low-income students apply for early decision.

A university financial and faculty resources matter a lot to US News, but also lock out low-income students as universities want to free up funding so they stay away from students that need financial and funding. Instead, to increase their rank, universities are spending more to hire faculty and ensure class sizes fall below the ideal 20 students per professor. Universities and colleges are also paying their faculty more. To acquire the necessary funding schools are increasing tuition and skirting financial needy students. Public universities are feeling the crunch the most and they are the ones raising tuition.

The all-important undergraduate academic reputation has college presidents, high school guidance counselors, college advisors rate universities, and colleges. A majority of high schools especially in low-income areas do not even have a counselor for their school, giving wealthy schools another advantage. Universities are also peddling to students that they know will keep up the alumni-giving rate, this is especially rampant among elite schools. The Ivy League particularly Harvard are preferring legacy admissions, with 40 percent of Harvard’s incoming class having a parent who graduated from the school. To ensure the money flows in low-income students are shut out.

Only two of US News’s metrics graduation and retention rates and graduation rate performance benefit low-income students, however, to ensure rates remain high schools turn to wealthier students who will graduate. Graduation rate performance is the most beneficial to low-income students because it “recognizes schools that are working to help the most disadvantaged students.” Morse argues the ranking’s rubrics are not creating biases but “creating a better academic environment” and “improvements across the board.”

Universities that play the game are rewarded and those who choose instead to help low-income students are punished in the rankings. President Barack Obama decried the rankings culture and attempted to counter US News’ influence by creating a rival ranking, The College Scorecard, which the Trump Administration is continuing. The ranking has its problems and needs to bolter its credibility, now the scorecard does not even threaten US News in the least. US News still dominates and does not care about the counter effects. In the end, despite the controversies that dog US News’ ranking and other rankings for fueling elitism or other reasons, as long as the rankings continue and equate prestige universities and colleges will continue playing the game perpetuating the problems.

Best National Universities

1 Princeton University (NJ) (1)
2 Harvard University (MA) (2)
3 University of Chicago (IL) (4)
3 Yale University (CT) (3)
5 Columbia University (NY) (5)
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (7)
5 Stanford University (CA) (5)
8 University of Pennsylvania (8)
9 Duke University (8)
10 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (11)

Best National Liberal Arts Colleges

1 Williams College (MA) (1)
2 Amherst College (MA) (2)
3 Bowdoin College (ME) (6)
4 Swarthmore College (PA) (4)
3 Wellesley College (MA) (3)
6 Middlebury College (4)
6 Pomona College (7)
8 Carleton College (7)
8 Claremont McKenna College (9)
10 Davidson College (9)
10 Washington and Lee University (11)

Top Public Schools

National Universities

1 University of California-Berkeley (1)
1 University of California-Los Angeles (2)
3 University of Virginia (3)
4 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (4)
5 University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (4)

Liberal Arts Colleges

1 United States Military Academy (NY) (2)
2 United States Naval Academy (MD) (1)
3 United States Air Force Academy (CO) (3)
4 Virginia Military Institute (4)
5 St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

September 4, 2017: Harvard remains on top of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2017–18




Harvard remains on top of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2017–18

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Harvard University is the world’s best university and at the top of the most academic fields according to Shanghai Rankings’2017 edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS). Wikipedia Commons

Early in the college ranking season and Harvard University is dominating as the best school nationally and internationally. The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) released their annual ranking on Aug. 15, 2017, with Harvard University again topping the best 800 universities in the world for the 15th year. Harvard also tops the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) 2017 released earlier this summer on June 28. On the GRAS ranking of 52 subjects, Harvard dominates and is the best university for 15 subjects. The ARWU is one of only two major rankings that are not published by a western country in either the United States or the United Kingdom. Shanghai Ranking Consultancy compiles ARWU in China.

For the 15th straight year, Harvard University topped the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)’s list. The top ten’s schools are unchanged from last year’s rankings and consist of eight American universities and two British institutions, but they moved around in their ranking. The world ranking also includes the national ranks for each school represented on the list.

Stanford University remains in second place, The United Kingdom’s top school, the University of Cambridge, moves up one to third place. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology moves up one to fourth place. The University of California Berkeley is again the top public school in the ranking. UC Berkley rounds out the top five moving down from third to fifth place.

In the second half of the top ten, Princeton is only the other university to maintain its spot, staying in sixth place for the past three years. The University of Oxford remains for the second year stagnated in the seventh spot. Columbia University, the third Ivy League university in the ranking behind Harvard and Princeton moves up one to eighth place. While the California Institute of Technology, Caltech moved down one to ninth place. The University of Chicago completes the top ten holding the same spot for the last two years.

The top ranking university in continental Europe is ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) remaining in 19th place. Denmark’s University of Copenhagen remains at 30th maintaining the spot as Continental Europe’s second best university, while France’s Pierre & Marie Curie University stays at third place in Europe, but moves down to the 40th place overall.

The list includes a rising number of Asian universities with The University of Tokyo as the top Asian university on the list, but moves out of the top 20, down four to the 24th position. Australia’s the University of Melbourne is the top university in the Oceania region and moves up to 39th place. Israel’s universities nose-dived this year. The Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) remains Israel’s top school, but its ranking dived from 67 down 26 places to number 93, barely staying in the top 100. While Hebrew University continues its slide from 87 to the unranked 100–150 position in the list.

The top Canadian university is the University of Toronto moving up four to 23rd place, making Canada the fourth top ranking country on the list. The University of British Columbia moved up three top the 31st spot and second in Canada. This year Canada has a new university in third McMaster University moves in the spot long held by Canadian ranking’s top school, McGill University. McMaster moved up an impressive 17 places and now sits in the 66th spot. McGill moved down three spots to 67th place. McMaster’s move changes Canada’s top internationally ranked universities, which have always been the big three of U of T, UBC, and McGill in various orders.

The United States dominates the ranking as it does with all the global lists, with 48 universities in the top 100, and 16 schools alone in the top 20 and 135 universities in the entire ranking. The United Kingdom loses their second place in the number of universities represented to China, part of the trend in the rise in prominence of Asian schools. China now has “57 universities in the top 500” while the UK only has 38. Although Asian schools have been rising the rankings, their preeminent turn in the ARWU rankings might have to do with the rankings parent company being set in China.

Brexit has been affecting British schools in the rankings and with applications and enrollment. The UK retains their second place when it comes to the number of schools in the top 100 with nine universities and Australia is third in the top 100 with six schools and 23 overall. There are 18 universities appearing in the ranking for the first time, while only five schools broke into the top 100 first time, including “Erasmus University in Netherlands and Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.” This year the ranking increased from 500 universities to ranking 800 schools worldwide.

ARWU is primarily based on scientific research to determine the ranking, and its subject rankings heavily look at the sciences except for the social sciences and economics. The Academic Ranking of World Universities methodology solely relies on Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), and based the ranking of the universities by the most “highly cited researchers.” The Clarivate Analytics is “updated annually using a 10-year performance window.” Most of the citations are scientific research explaining why Asian universities are rapidly excelling versus universities such as those in the UK that emphasize the humanities.

According to Shanghai Ranking their methodology uses six indicators, “including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of Highly Cited Researchers, the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index — Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance.”

ShanghaiRanking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) compromises lists ranking 52 subjects in five fields “natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, medical sciences and social sciences.” The socials sciences include more business related subjects than actual social science disciplines. Like the ARWU, the emphasis is on the sciences with the social sciences taking a back burner and the humanities entirely omitted. It should not be a surprise to see in the GRAS Harvard is again the big winner topping 15 subjects. Harvard excels in the social sciences and earned top marks for seven social sciences disciplines including law and only four within the medical sciences. Harvard also tops Library and Information Science despite not having a program offering degrees in the field.

The US again dominates the GRAS rankings taking honors in 32 out of the 52 subjects. Second in the ranking is China with eight subjects followed by the Netherlands helming five subjects. The UK only tops three subjects, “geography (University of Oxford), ecology (University of Oxford) and mechanical engineering (University of Cambridge).” In the US, second to Harvard is MIT, who has honors in five subjects, including four in engineering fields.

Stanford, which is second in the ARWU ranking, only tops two subjects Environmental Science and Engineering and Education. Among the other American schools, topping two subjects are the University of Pennsylvania (Nursing and Business Administration) and the University of California, Berkeley (Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Chemistry) with the best public school showing again.

Universities outside the US appearing multiple times are Britain’s Oxford (geography and ecology), the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology (Water Resources and Transportation Science and Technology), and the University of Wageningen (Agricultural Sciences and Food Science & Technology) which is another school from the Netherlands. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University is the only Asian school to top two subjects (Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Energy Science and Engineering).

The GRAS includes “1400 universities from 80 countries” in the 52 lists. As for frequency, American schools “appear 3857 times, followed by Chinese universities (1652 times) and universities from the United Kingdom (1168 times).” The two schools that appear the most in the subject rankings are “The Ohio State University — Columbus and the University of New South Wales.”

Like the ARWU, GRAS relies heavily on citations as their ranking methodology. To determine the lists Shanghai Ranking looks at “the number of papers authored by an institution in an academic subject, international collaboration on papers, and the number of staff winning awards in an academic subject.” According to Shanghai Ranking, they “measure” “research productivity, research quality, the extent of international collaboration, research with top quality, and the highest academic recognitions.” The ranking uses bibliometric data from Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science and InCites. To determine Award winners Shanghai Ranking utilizes the Academic Excellence Survey.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities compromises of three different separate rankings; World Top 800 Universities; World Top 200 Universities in Broad Subject Fields, and World Top 200 Universities by Subject Fields. Shanghai Ranking Consultancy has been publishing the list since 2003.

Academic Ranking of World Universities ARWU’s top 10 world universities:

1 (1) Harvard University USA
2 (2) Stanford University USA
3 (4) University of Cambridge UK
4 (5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
5 (3) University of California, Berkeley USA
6 (6) Princeton University USA
7 (7) University of Oxford UK
8 (9) Columbia University USA
9 (8) California Institute of Technology USA
10 (10) University of Chicago USA

Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) 2017 52 subjects:

Natural Sciences
Mathematics Princeton University USA
Physics Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Chemistry University of California, Berkeley USA
Earth Sciences Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland
Geography University of Oxford UK
Ecology University of Oxford UK

Mechanical Engineering University of Cambridge UK
Electrical & Electronic Engineering University of California, Berkeley USA
Automation & Control Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Telecommunication Engineering Tsinghua University China
Instruments Science & Technology Harbin Institute of Technology China
Biomedical Engineering Harvard University USA
Computer Science & Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Civil Engineering Tongji University China
Chemical Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Materials Science & Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Nanyang Technological University Singapore
Energy Science & Engineering Nanyang Technological University Singapore
Environmental Science & Engineering Stanford University USA
Water Resources Delft University of Technology Netherlands
Food Science & Technology University of Wageningen Netherlands
Biotechnology Harvard University USA
Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology USA
Marine/Ocean Engineering Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
Transportation Science & Technology Delft University of Technology Netherlands
Remote Sensing Wuhan University China
Mining & Mineral Engineering University of Science and Technology Beijing China Metallurgical Engineering Central South University China

Life Sciences
Biological Sciences Harvard University USA
Human Biological Sciences Harvard University USA
Agricultural Sciences University of Wageningen Netherlands
Veterinary Sciences Ghent University Belgium

Medical Sciences
Clinical Medicine Harvard University USA
Public Health Harvard University USA
Dentistry & Oral Sciences University of Michigan-Ann Arbor USA
Nursing University of Pennsylvania USA
Medical Technology Harvard University USA
Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences Harvard University USA

Social Sciences
Economics University of Chicago USA
Statistics Harvard University USA
Law Harvard University USA
Political Sciences Harvard University USA
Sociology Harvard University USA
Education Stanford University USA
Communication The Ohio State University — Columbus USA
Psychology Harvard University USA
Business Administration University of Pennsylvania USA
Finance New York University USA
Management Harvard University USA
Public Administration Erasmus University Netherlands
Hospitality & Tourism Management The Hong Kong Polytechnic University China-Hong Kong Library & Information Science Harvard University USA

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.