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Engineering professor calls out U of C’s use of rankings

By Melanie Woods, October 11 2016 —

The University of Calgary is moving on up — in the rankings, that is.

Last week, the European Centre for Science and Technology (Leiden) placed the U of C 116th in the world out of 842 universities from 53 countries. The U of C is now also ranked as the number five research university in Canada according to Leiden.

“This exceptional performance is a reflection of our dedication to research excellence and the collaborations that make a research university truly great,” U of C president Elizabeth Cannon said.

The 2016 Leiden ranking concerns core publications from 2011 to 2014 in five fields: biomedical and health sciences, life and earth sciences, mathematics and computer science, physical sciences and engineering and social sciences and humanities.

But as many celebrate the climb, one U of C professor calls out the university’s use of rankings as “misleading.”

U of C engineering professor Martin Mintchev noted the university was previously ranked fifth by Leiden in 2012 — taking into account publications from 2007 to 2010 — before dropping in 2013.

“This is not climbing in the rankings. It is a recovery of rankings,” Mintchev said. “The general public — our students, our staff, the provincial government and the people of Calgary — are misled that a rise in rankings has occurred.”

Mintchev said a similar situation happened with the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. In September, the U of C announced it had moved to 196th in the world according to QS.

“While these rankings traditionally favour older, more established universities, the fact that we have broken into the top 200 means we are successfully transitioning from a global leader among young universities to a global leader among all of our peers,” Cannon said after the QS announcement. “Our commitment to teaching and research excellence to benefit communities at home and abroad is fundamental to delivering on our Eyes High goals, and these rankings help us benchmark our efforts internationally.”

Mintchev said the fact the U of C was ranked as high as 149th in 2009 is proof that the Eyes High strategy did not positively influence the U of C’s international standing.

“The Cannon administration brought this ranking down to below 200 and should take responsibility for that before bragging that she has taken it back up to 196th place, which is lower than the starting point from when she took over as president,” Mintchev said. “This is 50 positions lower. Is that increasing the ranking like it is presented?”

In the 2016 Community Report, the U of C identified the value of highlighting rankings.

“These measures […] assess both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, reflecting different facets of our organization and providing us with comparative data against our peer institutions,” the report read.

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