Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) – USA addresses methodological imbalance inherent across prominent rankings


The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), a young research initiative based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has been gradually making its mark on the university-sector sphere, international student recruitment, and making an admirable attempt to address the methodological imbalance inherent in some of the more prominent ranking systems. With a quantitative take on global university performance, CWUR Rankings exists with the sole intention of providing one of the only reputational tables that removes the need for surveys and reports. Yet despite the interesting ideas extant in the approach, the global outlook is almost completely unchanged from the other leading university tables. The United States still dominates the sector, with a remarkable 8 US institutions featuring in the top 10. With the predictable exception of Oxford and Cambridge, American universities dominate the top flight.

Unlike fellow new arrivals to the rankings project, the Leiden Rankings and the NTU Rankings, the CWUR Rankings allocates a relatively low weighting of 25% for research, measured in the form of publications and citations. The H-index is used effectively to balance the potential distortions in data analysis, but the CWUR Rankings measurement of education quality can appear disjointed. The number of alumni to have won awards and prizes measures this seemingly speculative performance indicator, which holds the inherent bias of privileging those older and more visible institutions likely to be at the receiving end of such prestigious awards. Another 25% of the weighting is allocated to the quality of university faculty, which is again measured by the number of recipients of major awards, and graduate employability is perversely measured on the number of alumni holding CEO positions. Consequently it must come as no surprise the amount of US institutions in the top 10, with many of the world’s largest companies run from the United States, and many international organizations desirous of US-schooled graduates to come and rise up the ranks. As such, the top 10 paints a familiar picture:

(1) Harvard

(2) Stanford
(3) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(6) Colombia University
(7) University of Berkeley California
(8) University of Chicago
(9) University of Princeton
(10) Yale University
(11) Cornell University
(12) California Institute of Technology

The CWUR USA Rankings appear largely unchanged from 2013, despite the University of Pennsylvania losing its top 10 place to Cal Tech. On top once again, Harvard attained a clean sweep in all eight criteria: quality of education, alumni employment, quality of faculty, publications, influence, citations, broad impact and patents. As such, CWUR Rankings has been variously described as an admirable attempt, full of good ideas, but ultimately flawed and one-dimensional. CWUR’s table reveals an obvious picture of high-powered academic hegemony; with almost a quarter of the 1000 universities listed hailing from the UK, and 84 from China. This unbalanced reliance on prestige and reputation is arguably a product of the research team’s dismissal of university submitted surveys, which leads to a data set that relies wholly on largely speculative indicators of education quality.