Simon Fraser University’s global standing took a dramatic hit this year, according to the latest QS World University Rankings. The university dropped 19 spots from number 226 among top world universities last year to number 245 this year.
The decline is mostly due to a drop in academic reputation that has been felt by universities across the country. SFU narrowly missed a spot in the Canadian top ten, once more achieving eleventh place among universities nationwide.
The University of British Columbia fell six spots to number 51 in the world and third in Canada, while the second best-ranked university in the country, McGill University in Montreal, landed at number 32, two spots shy of last year’s placing.
The University of Toronto, the highest-ranking university in Canada, came in at number 31 which is one place higher than last year.
Though this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings have not been released, the ranking last year also placed SFU in the 201–250 bracket.
“While the global university rankings provide some sense of measuring excellence, it is only one perspective to measure SFU’s performance,” explained Wayne Sun, an analyst with SFU Institutional Research and Planning.
“We do not primarily use rankings to measure ourselves against other institutions, but we recognize that rankings provide an easily understandable method for comparison.”
These rankings are a useful tool to see how the university compares academically with national and international institutions and also how it is perceived globally, Sun noted.
For three consecutive QS rankings, SFU has seen lower performance in academic reputation — dropping from 41.6 two years ago to 31.5 in 2018.
“Our academic reputation may not always reflect our strong research scores in these ranking systems,” said Sun. These “rankings rely heavily on subjective reputational surveys that we have very little control of and no explicit information on who receives these surveys.”
QS explains on its website that a university’s academic reputation, which accounts for 40% of the final ranking, is measured through a survey of 70,000 academics worldwide.
However, Sun mentioned that the university does “relatively well” on objective measures such as citations per faculty, and numbers of international students and faculty.
According to the QS rankings, though the number of citations per faculty member diminished in recent years, SFU still ranks second highest in the country. The university also placed third in the country in terms of international students and fourth in numbers of international faculty.
“We focus more of our attention on research activities knowing that our researchers and academic staff strive to be the best in their field,” Sun said. “So based on these rankings, we feel that there is opportunity for SFU to promote and expand ourselves in the academic space to further improve our reputation.”
The rankings also allow the university to gauge trends in global higher education to determine which institutions are shifting their focus to certain subjects, Sun continued.
The Peak did not receive comment on the QS World University Rankings from the Office of the Vice-President Academic before our publishing deadline.