First and foremost it is important to clear one thing up: the innovative, exciting, and perceptively relevant new university rankings entitled Webometrics is not a table of university websites. It does not measure, compare, or quantify design layout or popularity but rather uses presence, access, and visibility as the key indicators of quality and performance in the higher education sector. This innovative method overlaps with some of the key concerns of fellow rankings, but with the added twist that the raw data is sourced only through online visibility. Therefore those with a stake in Canadian higher education are greeted with a very different picture than might emerge from the MacLeans, QS, or US News rankings. Canadian universities will be proud to learn that Canada has more universities in the Webometrics Top 100 than Britain, with 6 institutions reaching the top flight.
Due to the fact the Webometrics’ approach encompasses the impact of teaching, research excellence, community outreach, and international reputation, Canadian universities should keep a close eye on this trailblazing approach to university rankings, which appear to finely balance academic repute with the quality of the student experience. The overarching aim of Webometrics’ approach is to motivate academics and universities alike to build an online presence that appropriately maps the extent of their aims, activities, and outreach. Preparing a host of retorts to those who fault their methodology, the team behind the initiative claim that if a university’s performance on their table falls short of what they would expect from other tables, then they should adjust their web visibility to ensure a wider availability of study materials, open source publications, and research reports.
Canadian students and prospective students will no doubt be used to the usual race between McGill University and the University of Toronto to achieve first place. But in the Webometrics rankings McGill is down in 5th place in terms of global online visibility. The differences don’t stop there; in many cases the top 10 varies greatly from that of other tables. The rest of the Canada top 10, with global positioning in brackets, is:
1 (15) University of Toronto
2 (21) University of British Colombia
3 (66) University of Alberta
4 (76) Simon Fraser University
5 (77) McGill University
6 (81) McMaster University
7 (105) University of Calgary
8 (110) Université de Montréal
9 (134) Université Laval
10 (136) York University
The majority of Canadian universities demonstrate a boost in ranking from their QS and US News global position, revealing a clear dedication towards ensuring online visibility. Although divergent in some aspects, the results of the Webometrics data set is broadly correlative to that of the usual bibliometric approach used to reach world rankings. But unlike most rankings, this method has a far wider reach with over 20,000 universities taken into account. For many universities who have slipped down the table in comparison to the QS or US News rankings, the blame should be placed on poor online governance. Due to the ease of managing and generating online evidence as to scholarly activity Canadian universities should be proactive in measuring and reflecting their achievements on the web. Who knows, next year Webometrics might become the industry barometer of academic repute.