US News, World Report ranks UC Berkeley fourth globally

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Enrique Lopez/Staff

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UC Berkeley ranks as the fourth best university globally, according to the 2017 rankings of the best global universities from U.S. News and World Report.

For these rankings, U.S. News and World Report compared 1,000 universities in 65 different countries. The campus trails Harvard University, MIT and Stanford University on the list, released Tuesday, which based its judgment on each institution’s research performance rather than its undergraduate programs.

“Many more students both at the undergraduate and graduate level from around the world are enrolling in universities that are outside their own countries,” said campus spokesperson Michael Dirda. “(These rankings) help us attract … more of the best and brightest students from around the world.”

The methodology for ranking universities globally differs from the methodology that produces national rankings, which focuses more on SAT scores, graduation rates and other markers of undergraduate education quality. In contrast, global rankings review the institution’s reputation and faculty publications.

“People from the U.S. and globally want to understand where the best schools for them (are),” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News and World Report. “The world is certainly becoming a more global place.”

This manner of ranking universities, however, has some critics, who argue that such lists are meaningless in determining the quality of a university and are compiled for commercial interests.

“I have a dim view of these rankings,” said Randy Schekman, a campus professor of molecular and cell biology and Nobel laureate. “They’re kind of beauty contests that are devoid of meaning.”

Schekman added that these types of ranking systems rely on misleading criteria that do not reflect an individual’s experience at a university and can be “completely toxic to scholarship.”

By emphasizing the importance of publications and citations in determining an institution’s ranking, Schekman said faculty can feel pressured to publish in particular “glamour journals” or attempt to present their work as more impressive than it is.

“What meaning would a number or ranking have to an individual?” Schekman said. “I just don’t see the value.”

Patricia Serpa covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @pserpa_dc.