Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rank Rankings

One of the enduring themes (if one can have an enduring theme in a blog that is about two years old) is the questioning of rankings.

Well, that stops now.  McGill was ranked as having the 25th best political science program in the world!  So, from now on, all rankings, regardless of methodology will be not be questioned.  Or not.

This ranking puts us just behind Johns Hopkins and ahead of Duke and, most importantly for the Canadians, ahead of U of British Columbia.  The rankings are a combo of academic reputation, employer reputation and citations.  I actually cannot really buy into these rankings for a lot of reasons, not the least of which UCSD is ranked 15 places behind McGill despite being much higher on citations because of "employer rankings."  Any ranking that is a combo of reputations is going to be pretty flaky and pretty resistant to changes over the past five to forty years. 

The category of those departments between 50 and 100 include several that are clearly top programs, as in top 30 in North America (I cannot really say much about departments elsewhere--ignorance is, um, ignorance).  So, Dartmouth, which pound for pound has one of the very best programs in the country despite the absence of a grad program (which might effect rep a bit), Emory, GW, Indiana, Ohio State, Maryland, and UNC are all much closer to McGill than this portrays, if one can figure out what "best" means. 

I think that I have some wonderful colleagues, and they are doing mighty fine political science, but 25th in the world?  Um, sure, I hope the provost believes that.  The Dean will not because, well, he's a political scientist and has a clue about North American political science.  I think that we have one of the top three programs in Canada and a program that compares well with American programs, but can we possibly have a better reputation than departments that have more stars and more depth and more resources and more citations?  I don't think so.

To be clear, I will invoke Wuffle's Law and use this ranking until there is one that comes along that ranks McGill even higher.

Update: the Montreal Gazette had an article about how well ranked the McGill Law school was in rankings done by the same folks.  Perhaps it matters more there since hiring law students for law jobs probably depends much more on the school's reputation and less on what the student does (publish, research, etc.) 

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