December 2, 2008

U.S. News Ranks University 15th Best School in World

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Last week, U.S. News and World Report released another list ranking colleges and universities. This time, it ranked schools all over the world, placing Cornell 15th.
The rankings considered the following criterion: academic peer review, employer review, student to faculty ratio, proportion of international faculty, proportion of international students and citations per faculty.
The information was adopted from a company called Times Higher Education, and according to the U.S. News and World Report website, the data was shown to “present a multifaceted view of the relative strengths of the world’s leading universities.”
Cornell has always taken a stand that ratings are not very important, a sentiment former Provost Biddy Martin echoed in her State of the University Address back in March.
“Ratings are based on wealth and manipulating data. We can worry about our rankings or we can be who we are and take advantage of what makes Cornell unique,” Martin said.
Despite the fact that the University does not overly value rankings, Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations, was still appreciative of Cornell’s high ranking.
“I think its great when Cornell is recognized for being one of the great universities in the world,” Moss said.
Tommy Bruce, vice president of University Communications, identified some of the problems with the various rankings.
“The issue with rankings in general is that, while they are useful tools, they are by no means the only tools for assessing institutions. The reason is that each ranking reflects the interests of the people who are doing the ranking,” Bruce said. “As a result, it is very difficult for these rankings to take into consideration all of the facets of the University.”
One problem Bruce specified with U.S. News and World Report, particularly with their nationwide university rankings, is that they take into consideration each university’s endowment when computing their rankings, but they fail to look at the money Cornell receives from New York State.
Moss noticed that in the latest ranking, it seemed that the most emphasis was put on International students and faculty.
“Its just another way of putting together a ranking,” Moss said.
These discrepancies generate slightly different outcomes for the University each time.
For example, U.S. News and World Report ranks Cornell 14th among Best National Universities, whereas Forbes ranks Cornell 121st.
Bruce sees Cornell as a particularly complicated University for rankings to capture.
“I think that the poll is a useful tool. It confirms that of the thousands and thousands of institutions worldwide, Cornell is considered one of the top universities. This is in keeping with what we believe Cornell’s position is. We urge all people, that while it is a useful tool, it is by no means the only tool useful in measuring the quality of a university,” Bruce said.
While this ranking is positive for Cornell, Bruce emphasized the importance for prospective students to look at more than simply the rankings of a university.
“What other people have to say, what students have to say about the university, bears an enormous weight on incoming students on choosing Cornell,” Bruce said.
“I think that the most important thing for prospective students is to find a university that’s the best fit for them,” Moss said. “Maybe the rankings can help them, but I think that looking more closely at what the university offers is probably in the students best interest.”
Some students, such as Kevin Mendel ’10, take the ratings with a grain of salt.
“Cornell is an Ivy League school, of course it’s a good school. Rating will never change that fact,” Mendel said.
But Ashley Krooks ’10, does place a value on the ratings.
“I feel good about going to Cornell when it gets rated high,” Krooks said.
Harvard was rated 1st in the World, followed by Yale, Cambridge, Oxford and California Institute of Technology. Of the top 15 Universities, 11 were from the United States. Additionally, all of the Ivies were among the top 60.
Bruce believed this was representative of the success of higher education in the United States.
“I think that American higher education in general is one of the great accomplishments of this country,” Bruce said. “Looking at the number of people who come from around the world to attend a college in the United States is a confirmation of that accomplishment. I think Cornell University has a very healthy representation from foreign students, coming from over 120 countries worldwide.”