Academic Ranking of World Universities

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai Ranking, is one of the annual publications of world university rankings. The league table was originally compiled and issued by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2003, making it the first global university ranking with multifarious indicators.[1][2]

Since 2009, ARWU has been published and copyrighted annually by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, an organization focusing on higher education that is not legally subordinated to any universities or government agencies.[3] In 2011, a board of international advisory consisting of scholars and policy researchers was established to provide suggestions.[4][5] The publication currently includes global league tables for institutions as a whole and for a selection of individual subjects, alongside independent regional Greater China Ranking and Macedonian HEIs Ranking.

ARWU is regarded as one of the three most influential and widely observed university rankings, alongside QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12] It has received positive feedback for its objectivity and methodology,[10][11][12] but draws wide criticism as it fails to adjust for the size of the institution, and thus larger institutions tend to rank above smaller ones.[9][13][14]

A survey on higher education published by The Economist in 2005 commented ARWU as "the most widely used annual ranking of the world's research universities."[16] In 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education called ARWU "the best-known and most influential global ranking of universities".[17] EU Research Headlines reported the ARWU's work on 31 December 2003: "The universities were carefully evaluated using several indicators of research performance."[18] University of Oxford Chancellor Chris Patten has said "the methodology looks fairly solid ... it looks like a pretty good stab at a fair comparison."[19] Philip G. Altbach named ARWU's 'consistency, clarity of purpose, and transparency' as significant strengths.[20] While ARWU has originated in China, the ranking have been praised for being unbiased towards Asian institutions, especially Chinese institutions.[21]

The ranking has been criticised for "relying too much on award factors" thus undermining the importance of quality of instruction and humanities.[9][22][23][24] A 2007 paper published in the journal Scientometrics found that the results from the Shanghai rankings could not be reproduced from raw data using the method described by Liu and Cheng.[25] A 2013 paper in the same journal finally showed how the Shanghai ranking results could be reproduced.[26] In a report from April 2009, J-C. Billaut, D. Bouyssou and Ph. Vincke analyse how the ARWU works, using their insights as specialists of Multiple Criteria Decision Making (MCDM). Their main conclusions are that the criteria used are not relevant; that the aggregation methodology has a number of major problems; and that insufficient attention has been paid to fundamental choices of criteria.[27] The ARWU researchers themselves, N.C. Liu and Y. Cheng, think that the quality of universities cannot be precisely measured by mere numbers and any ranking must be controversial. They suggest that university and college rankings should be used with caution and their methodologies must be understood clearly before reporting or using the results. ARWU has been criticised by the European Commission as well as some EU member states for "favour[ing] Anglo-Saxon higher education institutions". For instance, ARWU is repeatedly criticised in France, where it triggers an annual controversy, focusing on its ill-adapted character to the French academic system[28][29] and the unreasonable weight given to research often performed decades ago.[30] It is also criticised in France for its use as a motivation for merging universities into larger ones.[31] Indeed, a further criticism has been that the metrics used are not independent of university size, e.g. number of publications or award winners will mechanically add as universities are grouped, independently of research (or teaching) quality; thus a merger between two equally-ranked institutions will significantly increase the merged institutions’ score and give it a higher ranking, without any change in quality.[14]

As it may take much time for rising universities to produce Nobel laureates and Fields Medalists with numbers comparable to those of older institutions, the Institute created alternative rankings excluding such award factors so as to provide another way of comparisons of academic performance. The weighting of all the other factors remains unchanged, thus the grand total of 70%.

There are two categories in ARWU's disciplinary rankings: broad subject fields and specific subjects. The methodology is similar to that adopted in the overall table, including award factors, paper citation, and the number of highly cited scholars.[35]

Considering the development of specific areas, two independent regional league tables with different methodologies were launched - Ranking of Top Universities in Greater China and Best Chinese Universities Ranking.