By JR on Friday, March 16, 2012
Since I have a large document issued to me by USyd, I am rather pleased by this. Rankings are all very arbitrary but perception is arguably the most important criterion -- JR
The University of Sydney is among four Australian universities ranked in the top 100 by reputation, in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2012.
Sydney was ranked 50, up from last year's position in the 51-60 slot, but behind the University of Melbourne and Australian National University, which were placed 43 and 44 respectively. The University of Queensland also moved up, to be listed in the 71-80 block.
Each of the four improved their positions from last year, the first time Times Higher Education published the peer-voted list.
The elite, "super group" of universities in the top 10 is dominated by American and British institutions with one Japanese university breaking into the top tier. Harvard tops the list and the University of Cambridge is third, with the University of Tokyo coming in to eighth position.
Melbourne and ANU are ranked more highly on the performance rankings at 39 and 40 respectively, while Sydney and UQ have a better reputation than performance, listed 60 and 76 on the list of top performers.
California Institute of Technology is the top performer on the traditional rankings, which has Oxford ahead of its long-time rival Cambridge.
Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings, said Australia's position on the reputation list was good news for the country, showing that its global reputation was improving, while some of the most distinguished universities were falling in stature.
"This reputation-only index is very good news for Australia – all four of its representatives in the world top 100 have risen up the table, with three of the four now making the global top 50. This is clear evidence that Australia's universities are rising in stature internationally, while competitors in the US and UK are seeing their global brands suffer."
More than 17,000 academics from 137 countries were surveyed about "the best" institutions in their own field of expertise. The list is intended to complement the Times's traditional performance ranking, which it publishes in October.
"This is a subsidiary of the world rankings, it's based only on reputation alone," Mr Baty said. "It's a very quirky exercise - and it's purely based on academics' perception so it's a subjective opinion only."
Mr Baty said Simon Marginson, an academic at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education, had been a helpful adviser on improving the way universities are represented.
"Funnily enough, the origins of this is Simon Marginson from the University of Melbourne - he often has been a great critic of rankings but he's been a very helpful adviser to us on how we make our rankings more rigorous and more transparent.
"With the main rankings which we publish in October we use 13 performance indicators: research impact, we look at income, we look at research productivity, we look across a real range of indicators, and he always used to argue that we separate the subjective part of the main rankings."