Universities: Who loves you, baby?

Consternation in France over the country’s lousy showing in the Times Higher Education world university reputation rankings. This isn’t the overall university rankings, which are constructed with piles of indicators on a bunch of measures. This ranking simply asks people at universities what they think of other universities. Which makes it kind of awesome because it skips objective criteria and goes straight to the stuff that makes people most insecure.

Hence the garment-rending in France, which has only four institutions in the top 100, the highest being Paris-Sorbonne university, way down in 71st place.

What makes it all interesting to Canadians is that the guy who runs the ranking system attempts to comfort French readers by saying that, after all, 4 out of 100 is “better than Canada.”

And indeed it’s so. Only three Canadian universities make the Top 100 buzz list: Toronto at 16, and UBC and McGill tied at 25. Sorry, everyone else.

This is a mixed result. Three universities isn’t that small a number, given Canada’s smallish population, and as one story points out, Canada is the only country that elbowed its way into a Top 20 dominated by the US, UK and Japan.

But in a global market for highly-mobile knowledge workers, universities have a better chance of attracting recruits if they are known, and thought well of. A small number of Canadian universities are doing quite well on that score, the others not so much.