University Rankings: Round 2 – Webometrics

The “Ranking Web of Universities” or Webometrics ranking was recently updated.  I have never noticed it in the past, so it’s new to me.  The first thing to say is that it is a university-wide ranking, and not specific to Engineering.  In the sub-section for Canada, Waterloo ranks #11, and #198 worldwide.  Not bad I suppose, but as usual let’s look at what it is actually measuring.

Methodology

The rankings are based on four factors, as I understand them:

  1. “Presence” is weighted 20%, and is a measure of the number of webpages in the university domain (i.e. uwaterloo.ca).  Waterloo comes up quite low (#1848) in this category (which seems rather odd).
  2. “Impact” is weighted 50%, and measures the number of links from third parties to pages in the uwaterloo domain.
  3. “Openness” is weighted 15%, and is a count of the number of “rich text” files, such as .docx, .ppt, .pdf available in the uwaterloo domain.
  4. “Excellence” is weighted 15%, and is data that counts the number of high impact research publications in journals.

So, essentially this ranking is based on what we might call the “web presence” of an institution.  The ranking organization seems to admit that the results will tend to favour larger institutions (they simply have more stuff on the web).  They also suggest that teaching and research quality can be inferred from the extent and type of stuff a university has on the web.  Maybe, but I have my doubts.

Meaning

What does this all mean for a potential applicant to Waterloo Engineering?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  It clearly measures something, but whether that is important or useful for selecting a university is uncertain.  It seems a bit of a stretch to believe that you’ll get a better education or experience at a university simply because it has a larger “web presence”.  As noted at the start, these are overall institutional rankings, so any relevance to engineering possibly gets drowned out by medical and law programs, etc. at other universities.

Anyways, one more piece of information to consider or ignore, depending on your view of its relevance to your decision-making process.

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