[LETTERS to the editor]Look behind the story in listings

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[LETTERS to the editor]Look behind the story in listings

According to Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology Professor Kim Kyoung-woong (letters, JoongAng Daily, Sept. 2, 2006), South Korean universities need to climb up to get on the top 100 list.
In order to appreciate the world ranking of South Korean universities, it would be better to concentrate on the Shanghai Jiaotong Survey, in which Seoul National University; Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Yonsei; Korea; Pohang University of Science and Technology and Sungkyunkwan appear in the top 50 Asia Pacific universities.
The Newsweek double issue (Aug. 21/28, 2006 international edition) lists “The Global Top Ten,” plus “the next 40 highest-ranked schools.”
Mr. Kim is right in observing that five Japanese schools are ranked in the top 100 on the Web site, but in the published list of 50 schools, only the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University appear. Five Swiss schools appear on that abbreviated list, which is two fewer than the United Kingdom (UK), and two more than Canada.
No list of global universities was published for American domestic readers. There is no need to do so, since all research-doctoral programs in the United States will be ranked by the National Research Council next year.
I suspect the rating criteria could have been skewed in favor of British universities. John O’Leary, the editor of The Times Higher, wrote in another context:
“Our principal aim was to raise awareness of and reward the huge contribution British universities make to the economic and cultural health of the country, one that in our view had gone largely unheeded. I am delighted to say that, with your participation and the backing of leading figures in Government, business and the higher education sector, we have begun to shine a light on a few of the many achievements that have made UK universities among the best in the world.”
I have no real problem with the list, since my alma mater(s), the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at San Diego, both appear as Top 20 schools. Yet in the Newsweek survey, “the size of library holdings was also considered as a measure of scholarly holdings.”
Mr. Kim makes the point that the slogan of higher education in South Korea should be “concentration and selection.” Now, collectively, the many libraries of the University of California system make up the world’s largest research/academic library, with more than 34 million volumes, plus significant digital collections.
Seen apart from the context of a statewide system of public higher education, the inclusion among the Global Top Ten of the University of California at San Francisco (with merely 2,600 students), would doubtless jar the senses. Thus, Mr. Kim’s point about the great strength of smaller institutions can be taken too far.

by Richard Thompson
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