National Taiwan University Ranking 2014 for UK provides idiosyncratic approach to measuring scientific excellence


The National Taiwan University’s Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers (hereafter NTU Rankings), occasionally known as the HEEACT ranking, takes an idiosyncratic approach to measuring scientific excellence in the UK. Taking the raw data of research citations as a means of quantifying the academic and professional impact of university research, the NTU Rankings uses a bibliometric methodology to inspect the integration and collaboration of British universities in the wider world of scientific knowledge transfer. Only 36 UK Universities made it into the top 500, revealing many British research centres struggling to keep up with their American and East Asian counterparts. While less well known than its fellow barometer of scientific merit, the CWTS Leiden Rankings, NTU Rankings arguably allows for a more expansive view of the constituent forces at play in research performance.

Sub-divided into eight indicators, NTU Rankings manages to assess the extent to which students and faculty demonstrate the fruits of their research through published papers. While this approach clearly favors English-speaking universities due to the disproportionate amount of journals published in that language, the NTU Rankings consistently shows the UK falling behind. This should be a cause for alarm. NTU Rankings’ Taiwan-based group uses a thorough methodology that takes into account ‘research excellence’, which constituted the bulk of the weighting, followed by ‘research impact’ and ‘research productivity’, each at decreasing percentage weights. While critics may say that this method only takes into account the short-term productivity without measuring the long-term effects of published papers (i.e whether they have any effect in their field or get ignored or discounted), the approach does appear to allow space for smaller institutions to find their voice. By omitting data that for the Leiden Rankings forms the basis of its approach – such as prestigious western prizes – NTU Rankings uses its bibliometric approach to level the playing field rather than to appeal to incoming students and eager academics.

While NTU Rankings has found that the University of Oxford shares eight place overall in the world rankings with University of California, Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the news is not so good for other UK universities used to being held in higher esteem. Here is the UK Top 10 with their world rank in brackets.

(8)  University of Oxford
(12) University of Cambridge
(14) University College London
(19) Imperial College London
(42) University of Manchester
(47) University of Edinburgh
(60) Kings College London
(92) University of Bristol

9.    (112) University of Birmingham

=    (112) University of Glasgow

While the leader of the initiative at the National Taiwan University has acknowledged the clear bias towards English-speaking institutions, this seems to have favored US institutions more than UK bodies. The research host, Dr Huang has noted that since the NTU Rankings began some seven years ago, English-speaking countries are dropping at an exponential rate out of the leading 500. Clearly used to dominating the top flight, don’t be surprised in the NTU Rankings aren’t mentioned in academic circles in Britain. While their approach is strong, it can’t be easy for prestigious institutions in the UK to find themselves being potentially outdone by younger universities who struggle to compete in an English-language dominated research field.