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University climbs in higher-education rankings

By K.C. Wassman, Daily News Editor
and Peter Shahin, Daily News Editor
Published October 3, 2013

The University has once again placed in the Times Higher-Education World University Rankings, moving up two spots from last year to number 18 in the world.

The California Institute of Technology was ranked as the best institution for the second year in a row, followed by a tie at second place between Harvard University and University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

The University’s overall score was a 79.2 out of 100, which is lower than past years despite the higher ranking. Within its ranking, the University scored highest in academic citations, which reflects research influence.

“The University of Michigan’s rise up the rankings is particularly impressive, demonstrating strength right across the board on a wide range of metrics,” Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher-Education Rankings, said in a statement.

The rankings are determined using 13 performance indicators grouped into five areas including teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook.

The University ranks 28th in the “National University” category of the 2013 U.S. News and World Report rankings, but dropped in the QS World Rankings from 17 last year to 22 this year.

College rankings have been criticized for a perceived lack of validity, reliance on peer reviews and even anchoring the ratings based on other ranking systems. A 2010 paper by Michael Bastedo, director of the University’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, and Nicholas Bowman, assistant professor at Bowling Green State University’s College of Education and Human Development, found that rankings “drive reputation, not the other way around.”

The researchers also found that since many rankings rely on their own students’ reviews, colleges have been manipulating the surveys they give to students in order to improve their own ratings.

Despite the flaws, the same researchers found in a 2009 paper that changes in rankings for schools in the top 25 of the U.S. News and World Report survey do produce noticeable effects in the application and admission pool for a school.

“College rankings receive a great deal of public attention, and many institutions are quite concerned about their position in these rankings,” Bastedo and Bowman wrote. “Unfortunately, the current study suggests that institutions can effectively woo more highly qualified students by using status signals that are unrelated to substantive changes in institutional quality.”