UC San Diego was ranked the 16th best global university in the 2017-18 U.S. News & World Report rankings released Monday.
The list, published yearly since 2014, attempts to rank the world’s top 1,250 universities, primarily ranking them by research reputation, academic publication output, and publication prestige. In 2015, UCSD was named the 19th best global university, and in 2016, it was named the 15th.
The ranking primarily weights factors that can be linked to a university’s research output and potential, instead of factors that are hard to measure like undergraduate experience. The 2017-18 ranking places UC Berkeley at fourth, UCLA at 13th, UC Santa Barbara at 28th, UC Santa Cruz at 47th, UC Davis at 52nd, UC Irvine at 75th, UC Riverside at 141st, and UC Merced at 693rd.
Arthur Wang, a Daily Bruin staff writer and Ph.D student at UCLA who studies higher education, said that global rankings have little use for undergraduate students. Wang said that most students have no need to evaluate the research quality of a university and have no intention of becoming research professors, so the ranking is not very valuable to them.
“Given that US News already does a extremely well known National/North American college ranking, the global ranking seems to mostly exist to give the publication a second wind of press coverage and clicks,” Wang said. “Most people aren’t going to be careful enough to differentiate between the two.”
U.S. News & World Report Global University Rankings are not to be confused with the National University Rankings, which this year tied UCSD, the University of Florida, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and UC Irvine at #42.
In September, a Politico story written by Benjamin Wermund claimed that U.S. News & World Report’s National University Rankings incentivize schools to favor wealthier students over low-income applicants, which in turn helped elect President Donald Trump. Carol Christ, UC Berkeley’s Chancellor, told Politico that the amount U.S. News’ rankings encourage colleges to pick wealthier students is “mind-boggling.”
“At a time when we should all be concerned about the financial efficiency of higher education, U.S. News rankings certainly don’t reward for that,” Christ said. “It’s so troubling to me.”
Wang believes that the Politico article suggesting that U.S. News Rankings led to the election of Donald Trump is “patently absurd,” because most universities are still primarily white.
“The most damning thing in the article is that it shows how improving socioeconomic diversity and access harms the university’s rankings, which in turn hurts [the] school,” Wang said.
Ultimately, he said, the rankings can be a useful guidelines for parents and prospective students seeking a way to decide which schools to apply to in the face of so many choices.
“Are they useful? Very much so as a general heuristic,” Wang said, “but they’re taken far too seriously and given too much explanatory power.”
U.S. News also publishes a yearly list of best hospitals, best cars, and best states.
Gabe Schneider is the News Editor at The Triton.