The Ultimate Ranking of University Rankings

Yet another exciting new league table

Shanghai Ranking Logo
Just one of the many league tables appearing in the top 20

I’ve posted many times before here on different league tables, even occasionally adding a little critique to the reports. Anyway, I thought it was about time to present a ranking of the rankings, a thoroughly objective assessment of the merits of each assembled into a definitive league table, the like of which has not been seen before (probably).

The top 20 appears below. Each of the league tables was awarded a score which has then been scaled. The criterion used to assess the rankings was as carefully chosen as each of the criteria in the tables themselves but can you guess what it is? Wonkhe badge for first person who gets the right answer.

The Ranking of Rankings

1 Guardian League Table 100
2 People and planet 94
3 Free Speech University Ranking 92
4 U-Multirank 83
5 Ecole des Mines de Paris league table 81
6 Student Drinking League 80
7 THE 100 Under 50 77
8 Global Employability Ranking 72
9 The Times/Sunday Times League Table 63
10 Graduate Rich List 52
11 THE World University Ranking 51
12 Webometrics 46
13 Academic Ranking of World Universities 45
14 Complete University Guide 33
15 Economist Full-Time MBA Ranking 29
16 QS World University Ranking 25
17 High Fliers 23
18 University Ranking by Academic Performance 18
19 GreenMetric ranking 16
20 Universitas 21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems 15


So there you have it. The ultimate ranking of rankings.

Wonkhe Student drinking league 2012A really memorable ranking this one.

27 thoughts on “The Ultimate Ranking of University Rankings”

  1. You just know that there is a crisis meeting at THE right now, with everyone angrily rounding on Phil Baty and asking him why his rankings are only 11th and him protesting that it is largely inherent bias within the methodology

    I honestly don’t mind what the criteria are; the ye-shall-reap-what-you-sow-yness of this metarank is perfect.

  2. srowlstonesr399 says:

    I’m going for Value Added Scores!

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      It’s good, but it’s not right!

  3. Carolyn O'Brien says:

    Wild guess: would not concern the U Nottingham position??

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Like the way you are thinking there but sadly well wide of the mark.

  4. srowlstonesr399 says:

    If not Value Added, how about:
    Spend is the amount of money spent on each student?

    1. srowlstonesr399 says:

      Should have read – the Amount of Money spent and not included the first two words!

    2. Paul Greatrix says:


      1. srowlstonesr399 says:

        As a final stab … student engagement

        1. Paul Greatrix says:

          You are working your socks off on this one. Afraid not. It really is a much cruder criterion

          1. srowlstonesr399 says:

            OK, that has me intrigued – is it the number of institutions from the UK that make the list?

          2. Paul Greatrix says:

            No. Too clever again I’m afraid.

  5. Dave R says:

    I was going to suggest circulation…

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Again, sadly off-beam

  6. Are you using “almetrics”? Anyway, I’m missing BGU (US News)…

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Ah, sadly that’s a bit too sophisticated

  7. Lowest word score in scrabble? In reverse order?

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Genius! But miles off I’m sorry to say.

  8. Caffeinated Colophon says:


  9. Caffeinated Colophon says:

    …try again!
    Number of times they refer to being ‘comprehensive’ and ‘independent’ in their introductions?

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Good one. Bit wide of the mark though

  10. I once supervised a student programming project that tried to rank university rankings according to their proximity to an aggregated ranking. (For any social choice theorists who read this, I was hoping to use the Kemeny consensus but had to settle for Borda scores.) But the results were inconclusive.

  11. AM says:

    Is it the number of variables used to compile the ranking?

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Afraid not!

      1. Paul Greatrix says:

        With many, many apologies to everyone who has been guessing what the criterion underpinning the ultimate ranking of rankings is…

        There have been some really excellent and remarkably sophisticated attempts to establish the methodology here and I applaud every one.

        I’m afraid though that in announcing the answer it will only fuel disappointment and a deep sadness at the shallowness of this kind of exercise.

        So, here goes.

        You really are going to be upset, you know so do ask yourself whether it might not be better just not to know the answer.

        You’ll probably feel happier on the whole.

        Sure? Ok, here goes.

        The criterion for the ranking, which was then scaled to give a better distribution was a unique rating, established solely for this purpose, not subject to any peer review or validation, just me deciding it.

        It was what shall henceforth be known as the RCI, or

        to put it another way,

        The Registrarism Crossness Index – essentially it’s how cross I get on first looking at the ranking in question. I may be cross because of the methodology or the particular positioning of the University of Nottingham or other universities or just indeed about all of the conclusions being drawn about it. But, you can be sure I’ll be pretty cross whatever it says. All I have done is here is capture that into an easy to understand ranking of crossness.

        I told you there would be disappointment. And no doubt some will be cross too. Which is nice.

  12. Stephen says:

    Well I’m gobsmacked. Two years and not even so much as a ‘what a load of croc’!

    1. Paul Greatrix says:

      Such is life Stephen!

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