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It doesn’t get dumber than this: The dumbest university rankings 2020

People love dumb university rankings. Paul Greatrix has some new favourites.
This article is more than 3 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

We just can’t get enough of university rankings round here and in the course of updating everyone on the most serious and sound league tables there are we do, inevitably, happen across some real stinkers.

Now you could argue, as many do, that there is no such thing as a good ranking but that’s not the way we see it. Our view is that, whatever you may think about league tables there are some which are, indisputably, significantly worse than others. These, which are best categorised as being far and away the dumbest of the dumb rankings, are ones we like to highlight for you each year.

Following the huge acclaim for last year’s second annual league table of the dumbest university rankings it seemed entirely appropriate therefore to provide an updated top 10 of the worst of the very worst. Naturally the methodology has, once again, been tweaked in entirely arbitrary and quite opaque ways in order to achieve a publishable difference in the final ranking. Indeed, so dramatic are the changes that every single one of the top 10 has changed. It’s even more volatile than the Guardian league table. Here is your top 10 then

10 Up in the clouds

Propping up the top 10 is a ranking of the world’s tallest universities and with all of them coming in at over 100m they certainly offer the opportunity for a dizzying educational experience for their students and staff. The core data is courtesy of Wikipedia, with a tall university required to have an occupiable height that is 90% devoted to classroom, research, and educational administration use. Student residential accommodation does not count. Don’t look if you are afraid of heights.

9 Chilly

In at 9, this is both niche and dumb – a ranking of the coldest universities in the US. Should this league table ever appear in the UK you have to suspect that Scottish universities in the North East would be most likely to win out.

8 Keep off the grass

Flying high at 8 we have this vital league table of self-reported marijuana use by students at US universities and it’s an all time high for Skidmore College (no relation), which wins the accolade of top school for weed smokers.

7 Ride on time

In at 7 we have this novel list of the top 25 higher education institutions ranked them on factors including cycling resources such as bike storage and pro-cycling initiatives, the availability of local bike shops and resources for novice cyclists, with points deducted for the prevalence of bike theft and air pollution.

6 Cheeky

In 6th place we have the first of two entries for the (literally) incomparable University of Bantshire. This classy league table sees all UK universities ranked based on their distance to the nearest Nando’s, and then given a Nando’s Excellence Framework (NEF) score of either Hot, Medium, or Mild. Spicy. It’s ground breaking stuff.

5 There was only going to to be one winner here

Catching everyone by surprise as usual we have this well ordered league table from North Korea which has produced a ranking of its universities based on their performance last year. Helpfully uncorrupted by global competition with other universities it is reassuring to note that some are, indeed, more equal than others. Since you ask Kim Il-sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, and Pyongyang Medical University ranked first through third.

4 Catching the buzz

In an exciting and edgy newish league table we have Edurank which does monthly (and annual) rankings of UK and Irish universities in relation to their social media presence, brand, etc which means

you can benchmark and measure the digital activity across all institutions. Results can be sorted by either institution name, Edurank (overall score), change, brand awareness, performance, social media profile, search, buzz or website.

A real buzz.

3 You’re so lame

The Tab, regularly home to a daft ranking or two, has come up with something special here to bag 3rd place in the table. Yes, it’s the lamest uni league table, the leading lights of which they characterise as:

the institution so undeniably absent of craic you’d legitimately leave it off your UCAS form out of fear going there might transform you into a big smelly nerd.

2 Totally topical

Runner up this year is the University Socially Distanced Rankings from, you guessed it, those Bantshire folks again. Totally on trend as per.
They claim to have taken universities’ outside site area and gross internal area (HESA, 2018), and distributed it evenly to all students and members of staff to work out how much space, on average, is available to each individual to social distance within. You’ll never guess who is at number 1.

1 Picture this

In a frankly desperate ranking effort one organisation simply counted the number of hashtags for UK universities on Instagram to discover, among other things, that:

Oxford is home to the UK’s most Instagrammable university, with an average 994 tags PER DAY
University of Cambridgeis runner-up, with 254,102 Instagram hashtags – 108,835 LESS than Oxford
Universities in Leeds, Glasgow and York make the top 5

The full ranking is as follows:

And, as they also note, Oxford is:

not just one of the oldest universities in the world but it is also the most popular on Instagram…to date, it has been tagged 362,937 times on the photo sharing service.

No-one could accuse that ranking of methodological over-elaboration.

All the also rans

Just outside the Top 10 this year and worthy of honourable mentions or lifetime underachievement awards we have a range of other dumb rankings of note:

Gone but, unfortunately, not forgotten

A rock solid presence in everyone’s list of the dumbest rankings in past years has been the incredibly silly Spiked Free Speech Ranking. Despite the popularity of this arrant nonsense among people who really should know better this league table has finally bitten the dust and is no more. It will take some beating in future and it is hard to imagine it being toppled but in the meantime it will occupy a special place in the dumbest of the dumb hall of fame.

A footnote about this nonsense

It has been suggested by some in the friendly and collegial world of social media that presenting any kind of nonsense like this or any other throwaway blog which doesn’t explicitly cover the enormous challenges facing universities, our students and staff and indeed the whole country as a result of the pandemic is an attempt to pretend that it’s all ‘business as usual’. All I will say is that if anyone really thinks that the irregular provision of dumb ass rankings of university clock towers or tunnels is anyone’s idea of business as usual then we really are all in a whole heap of trouble.

One response to “It doesn’t get dumber than this: The dumbest university rankings 2020

  1. Our son studied at Moscow State University. Not only can I validate that it is indeed very very tall it also boasts a flower shop. Also the most vigorous building entry security checks known to man. It was easier to get in Russia itself than MSU.

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