Why college rankings are rank
By Natalie Serafini, Opinions Editor
The list of the top 200 schools in the world was recently released, and Canada did reasonably well. In fact, the University of Toronto and McGill University both made the global top 20. As shivering with pride as I’m sure many students attending the two universities must be, I’m not sure how significant the ratings actually are.
To start, although it may be impressive to have McGill or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the world’s top university for 2012/13) as your place of study, keep in mind that the ratings change from year to year. If a university is the top in the world this year, it may very well fall down the ranks within a year. Some universities will rise, as is their goal, but because all the universities are in competition for student money, it’s not a good idea to bank on a school just based on one year’s top 200 list.
I also have to wonder, how much better is one school than another? I get that there are certain aspects that are quantifiable, and can be measured up to make a hierarchy of the top schools. But really, should you feel bad just because you’re not attending one of the top 20 schools in the world? No, you should just feel good about the fact that you’re attending a school at all!
Besides, information is information. You’ll most likely read similar textbooks and learn similar truths regardless of where you go. Unless you’re attending a school with no library, no certified professors, and no student rights, how bad can it possibly be? I imagine it’s pretty rare to encounter a school that’s falling apart in every way because, like I said, they’re all competing for your money. They want you to come to their school, so they will try to have good professors and well-kept campuses.
The list of the top 200 universities in the world takes into account a number of different factors, including academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per faculty (how much the faculty is contributing to their field), ratio of faculty to student, number of international faculty members, and number of international students. Although there is a separate list for the World University Rankings by subject area, I’m not sure how much the world’s top 200 list is based on all-around good programs at a school. A school can be the place to go for a Physics program, but be lacking in their Philosophy programs. Even the “best school in the world” may not be the best school for you.
What matters is that you get an education, not where you get it. What matters is how hard you work, not the school’s ranking on the global top 200 universities. It may look impressive that you attended the top school for 2012/13, but the school isn’t all that makes the person. In a couple of decades, the world’s top school for 2012/13 may be like Miss Saskatoon 1976.