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Rice ranked in top 100 universites worldwide

By Asiya Kazi     9/6/12 7:00pm


Rice once again placed among the top 100 universities - this time, globally. The Academic Ranking of World Universities, conducted by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, ranked Rice 91st in the world this year. 

The Center for World-Class Universities strives to create a database of major world universities, as well as a collection of literature on these universities, according to the ARWU website. Out of more than 1,000 universities, only 500, including Rice, were publicly ranked. 

As per the ARWU website, the rankings are based on five factors: the number of university community members that win Nobel Prizes and field medals, the number of highly cited researchers, the number of published articles in journals, the number of articles in the Science Citation Index, and per capita performance as compared to the size of the institution. 

Rice placed 61st in 2003, according to the ARWU website. However, the ranking declined slightly each year until it reached 99th place in 2010. Since 2010, Rice's ranking has increased each year, ranking 93rd in 2011 and 91st this year, the website states. 

This year, the ARWU website states that Rice ranked 48th in natural sciences and mathematics. The website also shows that Rice placed in the '51-75' rank range in the broad subject fields of engineering/technology and computer science, as well as in the '51-75' rank range in the social sciences. 

The website states that Rice ranked 27th in the chemistry subject field this year. In addition to chemistry, ARWU publishes rankings in the specific subject fields of mathematics, physics, computer science and economics/ business. Rice also placed 26th out of 1168 institutions for the number of Nobel Laureates and field medalists on staff per total faculty members according to the website. 

The ARWU published its first ranking in 2003 and has published yearly rankings since then, per the ARWU website. ARWU has been disseminated through media in most major countries and cited by many universities due to its credibility and usage of subjective factors to rank universities, the website states. 

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said he was delighted at the ARWU'S rankings, but stressed that rankings are not an end goal in themselves. 

"The rankings are certainly not for their own sake," Hutchinson said. "This is instead one of the ways that we measure our successes in providing a world-class scholarly environment for our students. Clearly, we are doing quite well."

Hutchinson also said he thought it important that students see their institution being recognized as a top univerisity. 

"It is very important for Rice students and alumni that Rice receives this kind of international recognition," Hutchinson said. "Being seen as one of the top universities in the world is a validation of the great value of a Rice education and a Rice degree. And this is something that employers, graduate schools and professional schools will notice."

Hutchinson said that while there may be several reasons for the improvement in Rice's ranking over the past couple years, he speculated that the improvement reflects the increasing international presence of Rice, both in research collaborations and in the student body. 

Department of Chemistry Chair Seiichi Matsuda expressed his delight with the department's ARWU placement but was not surprised with the results. Matsuda states that Rice's Department of Chemistry offers extensive faculty research, as well as research opportunities for undergraduates. 

"The quality of research done at Rice is phenomenal," Matsuda said. "The ARWU focuses on per capita achievement. By emphasizing quality rather than size, ARWU does not penalize smaller departments as many ranking systems do."

While Rice's Chemistry Department placed in the top 50 international institutions, Rice's rank for social sciences was lower in the '51-75' rank range. 

Will Rice College sophomore Daeshin Ju cites the disparate amounts of attention placed on natural science departments as compared to social sciences and humanities departments at Rice as a reason for this lower placing. 

"I feel like engineering and natural sciences have more influence in school," Ju said. "More students are engineering and science majors. It's way easier to get [natural] science research opportunities compared to social sciences [research opportunities]. But if you really reach out to professors, then you can always get opportunities for [research]." 

Matsuda said he believed that one of Rice's strengths is its propensity toward collaboration across disciplines and departments. 

"Interdisciplinary collaboration has been ingrained in campus culture for decades and was key to the discovery of the buckyball at Rice and the development of nanotechnology," Matsuda said. 

According to Ju, a sociology major, Rice students' varying awareness of different academic fields contributes to international-level rankings because this awareness reflects the attention that Rice places on various fields. 

"I sometimes have to explain to other [Rice] students what sociology is," Ju said. "They don't even know the definition of sociology. I wish there was more attention to sociology classes."

Ju said she thinks this lack of knowledge about the social sciences is a result of less funding for social science research than for natural sciences research. However, she said she has noticed a higher number of students in "Introduction to Sociology" classes and said she hopes that this trend will continue to establish the presence of the social sciences at Rice and improve Rice's social sciences ranking. 

Matsuda said that Rice's overall global ranking, independent of departmental differences, has many implications for undergraduates. 

"Rice [undergraduates] are surrounded by tremendous opportunities to perform research, and people who are interested in research careers should contact any professor in their areas today for advice on how to start research," Matsuda said. "It's never too early."

Overall, Ju, like Matsuda, is not surprised at Rice's high ranking. 

"I think that Rice ... really cares about its students, and it's really easy to approach the professors and get help," Ju said. "The quality of classes is usually high...and there are a lot of research opportunities that are hard to get in big, public universities. So I think the main reason [for Rice's high ranking] is easy access to resources."

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