Global vs National Ranking?

Why does the University of Washington consistently have higher global rankings than its national ranking?
I have always wondered about this, and I can’t seem to find the answer online.

It just doesn’t make any sense, isn’t that a contradiction?
Here’s what I mean:

US News Global Ranking ranks UW the 10th best in the world, tied with Yale and John Hopkins, and better that UMich.
But their National Ranking puts UW at 56th best in the US, which doesn’t makes sense next to the above ranking.

I need to know how reputable UW is internationally in comparison with UBC (British Columbia), and make my decision based on that.

Very simple: Review the methodology for each ranking.

There are better ways to choose: Have you visited both schools? Talked to an academic advisor? Sat in on classes? Met the students? Tried the food?

Global rankings are based on research output. US rankings are based mostly on undergraduate statistics.

Again, review the methodology for each ranking.


I’m sure that UBC has some programs that are better than the comparable ones at UW, but to the extent that selectivity in the admissions process tells you anything about which university is more “prestigious,” I think it’s a lot harder to get into UW than it is for UBC.

@WolfBlood Yes, it is a contradiction. @UWfromCA is precisely right. Review the methodology.

Even before deep diving into the methodology, perhaps, you can cut the number of ranking surveys to analyze, by asking yourself, does the ranking even meet the eyeball test?
THE (Times Higher Education) World University Rankings Arizona State #126, University of Arizona #161 vs Wake Forest #251-#300 and William & Mary #251-300, or here’s another set:
THE World Rankings Minnesota #56, UBC #34, UW #25 vs Vanderbilt #105, Virginia #113, Georgetown #123.
Would you trust that?

A SUPPLY/DEMAND MARKET DOESN’T LIE. 11% acceptance rate vs 15% acceptance rate, no big deal.

What about #105 Vanderbilt has an 11% acceptance rate vs neighboring #126 Arizona State has an 83% acceptance rate?

I have reviewed the THE World University Rankings methodology and that certainly didn’t change my mind after it failed the eyeball test miserably.
If I were king, THE World Rankings would not be allowed to mislead the world’s youth with this survey.

I think you will come to a different conclusion when you do the eyeball test with US News US National University Rankings or their National Liberal Arts Rankings.

Once, you have the shortlist of surveys that meet your eyeball test, delve into the methodology.

As far as your bottom-line question, looking at important criteria to me, UW is ranked about right at #56 +/- 5 in the U.S. News National Universities and UBC would be perhaps #60 +/- 5 amongst U.S. National Universities. This of course excludes 20+ national liberal arts colleges which are probably superior to both. You should probably consider other criteria since UW and UBC are in the same ballpark and rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all.

How do the schools rank in your Major from a survey whose methodology you agree with?
Do you plan to go to grad school? Dig into how many UW and UBC grads are accepted to your Top 5 grad schools over the past few years.
You may also consider the softer stuff, like where do I picture myself?

Vandy’s faculty research quality is not as good as that in UW. Wake forest, Williams and Mary are not good research schools. Even Georgetown is not that great on research. All liberal arts colleges emphasize on teaching, not on research. So faculty research is not as good as that in flag ship state universities.

If you evaluate schools based on research output, of course, many state Us will be ahead.

Big state Us admit lots of students, their acceptance rates have to be high. Liberal arts schools are small, do not have many students as well as faculty members, more importantly, they do not have enough resources. If you know your field, you will notice that lots of them do not have all the databases in the library. In particular, in engineering, or business, liberal arts schools cannot compete due to cost.

Still, for undergraduate education, many liberal art schools are adequate. But for those truly exceptional, liberal arts schools might not be able to accommodate.

Big state Us have everything, but also more students to compete with. It is easy to get lost in a big state U. But for those who know what they want to do, and strive for it, big state U could be much better.

What a strawman argument. You really believe faculty research is more important to a freshman or sophomore than teaching undergraduate students.

As you allude to, the top tier national universities and top liberal arts colleges obviously focus on better teaching, don’t load up freshmen courses with 500 students, feed a greater percentage of students into the top tier graduate schools, open more doors at the top corporations, and therefore have lower acceptance rates.

However, you want to move the goalposts to research and money for resources.

Ok, quite amazing, but let’s give it a go. We’ll take the first top tier university you mentioned and the flag ship state university you mention too.

Research and $$ resources:
Vanderbilt invests $51,500 in research per student. UW invests $25,900.

I guarantee you a greater percentage of undergraduates at Vanderbilt are doing research than at UW.
Secondly, Vanderbilt has a $3.8 Billion endowment for 12,600 students. UW has a $2.9 Billion endowment for 45,600 students. Vanderbilt is not starving to invest money in whatever they desire.
You tried to move the more important factors to judge to ones you thought UW would win.

The only thing you stated that makes sense is “research output” as in quantity, due to flag ship state universities having more people.
Global rankings are skewed to the # of research papers published, not quality or even the quality of the source they are published in. You know very well, that there is a global game to boost global rankings originally led by the Chinese (note the source of several global rankings are Chinese firms) by forcing grad students and professors to publish, publish, publish regardless of the quality. Surprise, the Chinese universities are making the biggest leaps in the global surveys. Of course, the British, Canadian, US flag ship universities and the like join in to pump out as many papers as possible to have something to brag about. How a freshman or senior for that matter benefits from this race to publish more research is beyond me.

Don’t mislead kids into thinking these global rankings mean anything, especially to an undergrad.

"publish, publish, publish regardless of the quality. "

Actually it’s worse than that. The graduate candidates at Chinese universities will get their names slapped on research papers whether or not they participated in the research. These students are just due to graduate. This helps them land research positions at US universities.

@1NYparent The smaller grants and projects at liberal arts colleges still allow students to learn the research process. Liberal arts research is a different ballgame than the “big money” research schools, but it prepares equally well for graduate school if not better, because the undergrads are not competing with grad students for meaningful roles.

When you rescale the data by the size of the undergraduate class, there are several liberal arts schools that “punch above their weight” in producing PhD’s and MD’s.

Since this is the Washington forum, prospective students may be interested in the undergraduate research and scholarship opportunities at the UW:

Also, as shown in #4, the research component in various ranking methodologies usually includes research influence, impact, quality and reputation in addition to (or instead of) research productivity.

Global rankings are based on research output, that’s why flagship state Us are ranked higher. Sure, you can question the methodology, then there are many different rankings based on different methodologies. You can take whatever you like.

If you want to talk about teaching, it is a different story. It is not part of the global rankings though.

By the way, top national private universities do not really emphasize on teaching even thought they might say otherwise. I think they are adequate. The incentives for faculty members are all on research. Without research, there is no tenure, no salary increase, no pay, why do you think they emphasize on teaching if the incentive structure is not there? They hire adjuncts to do the teaching though.

Liberal arts schools do not pay their professors as well. They do not emphasize on faculty research, well they can’t afford it. If someone is good at research, most likely the person will be gone. They have far fewer students as compared with flagship state Us.

Liberal arts schools do not have enough faculty members who cover different fields. In 1950s, 60s, you could hire people who work in many areas within a field. Not anymore! Now in order to build a department, you need more people doing all kinds of things as fields get more specialized. If you just invest in some areas, you could miss the big market trend. So advantages to the big state U and big private universities, and disadvantages to liberal arts colleges and small private universities. Do you think it would affect undergraduate teaching and job market perspective? I believe so.

For me, school ranking depends on kids fit. If the kid knows what they want and has drive, without considering for tuition, I would take the top large private universities as they also have tons of faculty members, then next would be the top flagship state Us. I would also pay attention to rankings for the major. For engineering schools, I would probably avoid many private schools as they are really not that great.

As for several liberal arts schools that “punch above their weight” in producing PhD’s and MD’s, it is more likely that these kids are academically excellent to start with. No matter where they go, they will go for Ph.Ds or MDs.

“Why does the University of Washington consistently have higher global rankings than its national ranking”

Most likely due to different methodologies being used by different rankings. As one example, many US rankings use the size of the endowment and the percentage of applicants who are accepted as important ranking criteria. However, many schools outside of the US have significant government funding which does not allow them to pile up huge endowments without spending a significant part of this on improving education. Also, US schools use methods (such as rampant advertising to high school students, and unpredictable admissions policies) to encourage many applicants who are not likely to get in, whereas many schools outside the US are constrained by some combination of common sense, fairness, and government restrictions to have comprehensible admissions policies. This in turn can increase the percentage of applicants who are admitted by encouraging only those students to apply who actually have a decent chance of getting in. As such the methodologies that are used inside the US to rank universities would not make much sense for international universities.

“I need to know how reputable UW is internationally in comparison with UBC (British Columbia), and make my decision based on that.”

This seems like a poor way to choose between universities.

UBC and UW are both very good schools. You can do very well and get a very good education at either of them. A degree from either of them will be recognized quite widely.

Probably the first two things for you to look at: What programs does each school have in the area that you want to study? Also, which one is going to cost you more, and will either require you to take on debt? Which country you want to study in might be a reasonable third thing to think about.

One minor point: If you get a degree from UW, it does not come with a work permit. Instead you will be expected to return to your country of origin (whatever that is). If you get a degree from UBC, at least based on recent Canadian law (I haven’t checked in a few months), this will allow you to apply for a work permit to work in Canada. Does this matter to you?

I will admit that these schools are closely enough matched that I can understand why you are having trouble deciding. IMHO they are both very good choices (assuming that they have what you want to study and that you can afford either).

Ranking are subjective criteria based on someone’s opinion, which is basically worthless. Just because it comes from US News doesn’t make it anymore an opinion. What you need to do is find out which university works for you and ignore rankings.