Shanghai: No surprise

The 2008 Academic Ranking of World Universities, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is out. The “Shanghai rankings,” as they’re called, are watched very closely by university administrators and easily-distracted nationalists around the world, as a prime indicator of countries’ ability to compete in the global knowledge race. (Which isn’t to say the methodology is beyond reproach, only that everyone loves a list.)

How’d Canada do? Quite well. U.S. universities had more than half of the top 100, the UK 11, Germany 6. Four Canadian universities — Toronto, UBC, McGill, McMaster made the top 100, with two more, Alberta and Université de Montréal, in the second tranche from 101-51. Germany and France, with much larger populations, had 6 and 3 universities, respectively, in the top 100.

But with one exception, Canadian universities have been holding steady in the past five years’ rankings, neither advancing nor falling back. That exception is…

…McGill, which rose from 79th place in 2003 to 60th in 2008. Discuss among yourselves…

UPDATE: If you rank universities by prominence in various academic fields, Canada has the third-highest total number of institutions mentioned, for whatever that’s worth.