GLOBAL: US still leads world rankings

Despite efforts to reduce the geographical bias of search engines, American universities still take the lead in the latest edition of the Ranking Web of World Universities. But some institutions in developing countries are reaching higher ranks, especially in Latin America where the University of Sao Paulo, in 38th place, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, at 44, benefit from the increasingly inter-connected Brazilian and Mexican academic web spaces.

Since 2004, the Ranking Web has been published twice a year, in January and July, and covers more than 17,000 higher education institutions worldwide. The "Webometrics Ranking of World Universities" is an initiative of the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), the largest public research body in Spain.

CSIC was among the first basic research organisations in Europe and is attached to the Spanish Ministry of Education. The Lab measures the activity and visibility of institutions according to their presence on the web and claims it is a good indicator of impact and prestige of universities.

The rank a university receives summarises its global performance, provides information for students and scholars, and reflects the "commitment to the dissemination of scientific knowledge".

"We intend to motivate both institutions and scholars to have a web presence that reflect accurately their activities. If the web performance of an institution is below the expected position according to their academic excellence, university authorities should reconsider their web policy, promoting substantial increases of the volume and quality of their electronic publications," the CSIC says.

Changes in calculating the latest ranking include improving the academic impact of open web contents and reducing the geographical bias of search engines. But US universities remain at the top with MIT and its huge open courseware system again in first place, followed by Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, although the digital gap with their European counterparts (Cambridge and Oxford are the region's top institutions) has been reduced.

Several countries have improved their performance with strong web oriented strategies, including Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. The Czech Republic and its Charles University is the leader for Eastern Europe, while Spain (Complutense) and Portugal (Minho and Porto) have huge repositories and strong open access initiatives. Norway (the NTNU in Oslo) and Egypt have also gone up in the rankings.

On the other side, the lower ranked universities are headed by France with its very fragmented system, Korea, whose student-oriented websites are frequently duplicated, New Zealand, India and Argentina.

Africa is still monopolised by South African universities with Cape Town at the top in 405th place. Australian universities are the best ranked for Oceania with the Australian National University coming in at 77.

Other well-performing institutions include Cornell and Caltech in the US, Tokyo (24th), Toronto (28th), Hong Kong (91st), and Peking (104th). Yet Yale, Princeton, St Petersburg, Seoul and the Indian Institutes of Science or Technology are below what was expected.

See also:
Ranking Web of Research Centres
Ranking Web of Repositories
Ranking Web of Hospitals
Ranking Web of Business Schools