Otago Less Good

Unimpressed with lack of couch burnings and riots, ranking agency punishes Otago with huge drop in rankings.

New Zealand universities have fallen considerably in the just released version of the QS World Universities Rankings, with Otago University suffering the most significant tumble, falling out of the top 100 universities in the world. New Zealand had no institutions in the top 50, while Australia managed four including the Australian National University at twentieth.
The University of Auckland, New Zealand’s highest ranked institution, fell from 61 to 68, continuing its fall from its highpoint ranking of 50 in 2007.
Otago meanwhile plummeted down the table, falling from 79 in the last rankings to 139 in this iteration. Other New Zealand institutions also fell, although Victoria University of Wellington bucked the trend, rising slightly to place at 225.
The University of Cambridge was ranked the top institution in the world, dislodging perennial number one Harvard University. Yale, University College London and MIT rounded out the top five.
The QS Rankings are based primarily on perceived reputation among academics and employers, rather than on research citations.
QS’s rankings are just one of several versions produced by rival agencies, each of which use different methodology. The rival methodologies can produce drastically different results, for example the Times Higher Education rankings feature only one New Zealand university, the University of Auckland, which is ranked 145 in the world.
Commentators have often slammed the various rankings as essentially meaningless and misguided. Criticisms include the fact that the rankings favour institutions which have “storied histories” at the expense of up-and-coming institutions, especially those from Asia, and the fact that they often ignore research excellence in specialised areas at the expense of an overall ranking.
Whilst some ranking agencies, including QS, have recently started producing rankings by subject, these too have come under fire as being elitist and inaccurate, reflecting inherited perceptions of excellence rather than current reality.
The story came through too late for Critic to obtain comment from the University of Otago, but the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, speaking to stuff.co.nz said the rankings slide would only deepen as New Zealand institutions would be unable to“maintain parity with our international peers if the under-investment in New Zealand universities continues”.
“New Zealand's direct public investment in tertiary institutions is 58 per cent of the total expenditure on tertiary education; this compares with an OECD average of 81 per cent, and just under 70 per cent in Australia for tertiary institutions.”
"As other countries increase their per student expenditure, the gap is only going to widen."
Posted 4:06am Monday 11th July 2011 by Gregor Whyte.