Ranking the world’s universities by web presence


University rankings are admittedly controversial and their use, misuse and abuse are the source of frequent controversy in post-secondary education circles. Of the 50 or so major university rankings systems in use, the principal international rankings are prepared by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the Times Higher Education Supplement.

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World’s Universities, published by the Spanish National Research Council’s Cybermetrics Lab, U.S. and Canadian universities account for more than 60% of the world’s top 200 universities. These bi-annual rankings rate over 16,000 universities world-wide according to the size and quality of their Internet presence. The top ten Canadian universities amongst the Webometrics Top 4,000 are as follows (overall ranking in brackets):

  1. University of Toronto (24)
  2. University of British Columbia (38)
  3. University of Alberta (61)
  4. Simon Fraser University (62)
  5. Université de Montreal (63)
  6. University of Calgary (69)
  7. Mcgill University (91)
  8. University of Waterloo (94)
  9. Université Laval (110)
  10. York University (113)

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Ranking the world’s universities by web presence

  1. Dale, can I assume that the fact that you’ve put “web presence” in italics indicates some degree of incredulity about these rankings?

    The thing you have to understand about the webometrics rankings is that they are really about looking beyond the top 500 institutions. Shanghai and THES-QS only look at a very limited number of institutions. So if you’re a university in Uganda or Indonesia, how can you benchmark yourself using international rankings (which, let’s face it, is a major reason for consuming these kinds of products)?

    Webometrics basically works on the principle that since there’s a rough correlation between institutional publication/citation counts and the kind of web metrics it uses, then web metrics can in fact be used as a proxy for the same kinds of things that the Shanghai rankings measure. Universities in the developing world love it, because it’s the only ranking they can “see” themselves in. For countries like Canada, which already place a healthy percentage of their institutions in Shanghai and therefore don’t need the proxies so much, it’s not quite as useful.

  2. Well, I have to fully agree with the comments from Alex. But I have to add that even for countries like Canada and many other from the “developed world” this proxy could be quite useful in the sense that, nowadays it is as important to breed nobel prizes as to have a high quality frontrow (I mean the web site). You only need to have a look at the web sites of the first places on the ranking and see what I mean.

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