U of T is now the 29th best university in the world, according to the Times Higher Education - QS World University Rankings for 2009. The list, published on October 8th at www.topuniversities.com, sifts through the over 9,000 worldwide institutions recognized as universities to rank the 621 best.

According to QS World University Rankings, Harvard is still the top university in the world with Cambridge and Yale at #2 and #3 respectively. McGill continues to outrank U of T as the top Canadian university overall. Still, all this may very well be besides the point as U of T finds pride in the hidden details of the list.

Times Higher Education (THE) compiles each top university list by considering a variety of factors and weighing the overall score against other institutions. The three critical points of interest that together account for 80% of the overall grade are academic peer review, student faculty ratio, and citations per faculty. The remaining 20% is split between employer review and international faculty and student consideration.

"We feel that too much emphasis has been placed on statistics that can be skewed and manipulated," says Robert Steiner, Assistant VP of Strategic Communications. "Relying on ratios does not always reflect the best."

The rating system certainly isn’t infallible. There are indeed oddities to the list, and one needs only to gingerly scratch the surface to expose a few. The most peculiar aspect of the list, and certainly the aspect worthy of the most attention, is how the overall rank of the universities does not necessarily offer an honest reflection of the individual broad faculties that comprise them.

U of T offers a great example of this anomaly; we’re ranked #11 in Arts and Humanities, #8 in Engineering and Technology, #11 in Life Sciences and Biomedicine, #14 in Natural Sciences, and #15 in Social Sciences, yet the whole is apparently worth considerably less than the sum of its parts considering U of T’s placement overall.

Another startling example is found in the University of California Berkeley, ranked ten spots below U of T at #39, but comfortably sitting in the top five of each broad faculty. On the other end of the spectrum is University College London, ranked #4 overall regardless of being well below both U of T and Berkeley in each broad faculty.

"U of T's global strength is the breadth of our leadership," says U of T President David Naylor. "Many research universities build their reputation on one or two areas of strength. That's why it's gratifying that academic peers rank us in the top 15 across all major fields surveyed."

U of T takes far more pride in its individual faculty rankings than its overall position, and its students should too. Such high, balanced scores across the broad faculties are worth more than any overall position. “When a student looks at international institutions for graduate school, it is important that their U of T degree measures up,” says Steiner. “Only five or six universities in the world consistently rank in the top 16 in every field. We’re proud to be one of them.”

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