Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Other THE African University Rankings

THE have just presented Africa and the world with a list of 30 African universities ranked according to "research impact", that is the number of citations per paper normalised by field (300 of them?) and year. Citations are not just counted but compared with the world average for specific years and fields.

The result is that a university that manages to join a large international project, typically in medicine, genetics or particle physics with a disproportionate number of citations especially in the first couple of years of publication, can get an extremely high score. If the university had few publications to begin with the score for this indicator would be even higher.

For these rankings THE have introduced fractionalised counting. so that a university that is one of 100 contributors to a project with 2000 citations would get the equivalent of 20 citations. Under the procedure THE and the their former data collectors Thomson Reuters had been using for the world university rankings it would have been credited with 2000 citations as would all the other contributors.

THE are to be congratulated for finally using fractionalised counting which has reduced the likelihood of the indicator producing very odd results. Even so, the snapshot ranking is inappropriate for African universities, as it still privileges those that happen to contribute to to a few international projects.

The results might seem acceptable to THE and its international audiencebut I suspect that Egyptian academics will be amused by a ranking that includes six universities but not Cairo University . I wonder how many Nigerians will accept a ranking that includes Port Harcourt but not Ibadan or Ahmadu Bello.

Along with standardised scores for citations THE has also included the number of publications in the Scopus database between 2009 and 2013. This, a measurement of research output of a fairly high quality, is probably more relevant to Africa than the citations indicator. Unfortunately, it shows the very limited amount of research done between the Sahara and the Kalahari and so would be inexpedient to present as a snapshot of what a future ranking might look like.

The methods, approaches and assumptions of THE's world rankings with their emphasis on inputs, especially income, research quality, inappropriately called research impact or research influence, reputation, and doctoral education are of limited value to all but a few African universities and stakeholders. Whether anything of value comes from the conversation in Johannesburg remains to be seen but it is unlikely that a modified version of the world rankings will be of much value to anyone.

Anyway, below are the 30 African universities reordered according to number of publications.

RankUniversityCountrynumber of
 publications 2009-2013
1  University of Cape TownSouth Africa5540.21
2University of PretoriaSouth Africa4544.33
3University of the WitwatersrandSouth Africa4387.17
4  Stellenbosch UniversitySouth Africa4357.33
5University of Kwazulu-NatalSouth Africa4235.09
6Alexandria UniversityEgypt2550.15
7Universite de SfaxTunisia2355.30
8University of JohannesburgSouth Africa2192.74
9North West UniversitySouth Africa1707.94
10Assiut UniversityEgypt1588.64
11University of the Free StateSouth Africa1512.56
12Université Mohammed V РAgdalMorocco1503.69
13Rhodes UniversitySouth Africa1296.96
14University of the Western CapeSouth Africa1154.77
15Makerere UniversityUganda1112.69
16Suez Canal UniversityEgypt998.98
17University of South AfricaSouth Africa981.67
18Nelson Mandela Metropolitan UniversitySouth Africa885.77
19Universite Hassan II CasablancaMorocco960.25
20Universite Cadi AyyadMorocco 910.82
21Addis Ababa UniversityEthiopia893.90
22Univerite de TunisTunisia879.63
23Universite de Yaounde ICameroons876.33
24Ecole Nationale d’Ing√©nieurs de SfaxTunisia822.31
25University of GhanaGhana804.53
26American University in CairoEgypt700.89
27Minia UniversityEgypt694.79
28University of NairobiKenya671.72
29South Valley UniversityEgypt636.85
30University of Port HarcourtNigeria573.55

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