Challenging traditional methodology with Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) – UK


As academic excellence gradually shifts from the traditional powerbases of Europe and the US, a number of innovative university rankings have appeared, to attempt to challenge the methodology and redress the imbalance of the big four university rankings systems: THE Rankings, ARWU SHJT Rankings, US News, and QS World. Despite a revised and inventive approach, UK universities will be happy to know that their global status remains a prominent one, despite a number of clear warning signs for some institutions.

Emerging from the oil-rich, affluent, and ambitious city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) have found an original way to sidestep the need to collect data through extensive university surveys. In the place of this subjective data, CWUR Rankings have devised their own method of gauging achievement and student prospects through quantifying the academic environment students enter into.

For example, instead of measuring universities’ world-class status on the number of published papers, the CWUR Rankings goes for quality rather than quantity and gauges the number of publications in the most prestigious journals in their field. Most of the data for the CWUR Rankings manages to occupy the middle ground between the reputation-heavy focus of some rankings and the purely bibliometric approach of others. The team working in Jeddah demonstrates a clear knowledge of the current concerns in the increasing globalization of education. As international student recruitment remains a hot topic for university staff and governors, equal attention should expect to be paid by the incoming student, who would hope that their efforts and increased fees translate into benefits in real terms. While many rankings quantify student value as relative to funding per head or prestige, CWUR Rankings have identified their own set of 8 performance indicators to measure the world’s top 1000 higher education institutions.

CWUR’s UK ranking for this new academic year, with global positioning stated in brackets, is:  

1 (4) University of Cambridge

2 (5) University of Oxford

3 (30) University College London

4 (39) Imperial College London

5 (56) University of Edinburgh

6 (69) University of Manchester

7 (90) King’s College London

8 (123) University of Bristol

9 (137) University of Glasgow

10 (142) University of Birmingham

The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge appear to have completed their (semi) annual swap, with the former dropping 2 places on the global scale, and the latter rising by 1 place. The usual 3rd and 4th placed institutions were offered mixed blessings. Imperial has been found to have fallen 12 places from 2013, while UCL has retained its position at 30th overall. The same was true for the education elites north of the London and Oxbridge grouping; Edinburgh fell while Manchester rose by 3 places. It seems that British universities have responded well to CWUR’s methodology, and can be seen to fare much better than the other global alternatives to the big four ranking tables; the Webometrics ranking only finds 4 UK institutions in the top 100, compared to 7 for CWUR Rankings, and 8 in the top 10 for NTU Rankings. By redressing much of the existing imbalance in how academic excellence is measured and quantified, CWUR Rankings, the UK’s place in the world’s educational hierarchy emerges relatively unscathed.