As always, this ranking is prepared with a clean browser, so pre-established Google-preferences don’t influence the result, and it is assembled using light bio-neural filtering.
It’s interesting to see the second-ranking institution here is an open university—largely online, and catering to non-traditional students. Open University Malaysia is less than ten years old and already has more than 70,000 students, “a record of some sort.” Given that Google’s ranking system depends upon a large interlinked web presence, and on external links pointing to the institution’s own pages, it isn’t surprising that a university with a big online division would rank highly. We may well see this pattern intensify as time goes on.
Most of these institutions may not care whether they rank highly on English-language searches for the word university rather than universiti, but a simple change to the HTML title of their home pages that added the English name after the Bahasa Malaysia name—such a change might well put them in the top ten for both languages, increasing their international exposure.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
This list demonstrates one of the advantages of our custom bio-neural filtering system also. Both Strathmore University and the Catholic University of Eastern Africa are located in Nairobi, but they happen to have registered their websites under .edu domains rather than .ac.ke domains. An automated system might mistakenly include them in U.S. rankings and exclude them from Kenyan rankings.
Google does permits us to search in Kiswahili, where the usual word for university is chuo kikuu. But because the Kenyan higher-education sector is so dominated by English, this search turns up very little in the way of rankable university listings (although it does identify many top universities in Tanzania, where chuo kikuu is a common textual designator).
These lists illustrate both the value and the limitations of university rankings, and also the reason why rankings will always be with us. I’m sorry to say that I know very little about universities in China. Where would I go to learn? Knowing very little, I have no grounds for comparison, and no background knowledge to draw upon. Lists like these offer a natural starting point. No reader should take them as definitive—indeed, the concept of a “definitive” university ranking is foolish. But for an inexperienced outside observer, these initial listings are as good as any, and they can serve as a basis for learning more about higher education in the most populous nation in the world.
Following up our intensive analysis of college football rankings, today we’ll take a look at college basketball rankings using our Google-method of ranking.
One of the purposes of this method is to encourage people not to take rankings too seriously. But in doing this, we can also sometimes reveal interesting things about the structure of higher education.
As with the football rankings, the first thing to remember is that when people talk about college basketball in the U.S. they really mean university basketball. So we might be tempted to search in Google for the phrase university basketball and see what institutions come out on top. But as we saw with football, the SERPs that we get from this query have almost nothing to do with colleges and universities: they’re all commercial junk from .com’s, not .edu’s.
Bluffton University Basketball Day for November 2008
Montclair State University Basketball Camp for Girls (pdf)
Maryville University Basketball
Purdue University Archives
American University Basketball News
Amusingly, a number of the top-ranking pages in this phrase-based search are not actually pages for the teams: Cornell’s is a page of basketball films from the university archives; Villanova’s is a page on how to get tickets; Bluffton’s is a page about a campus holiday from a year ago; and Montclair State’s is a page about a summer camp. Is “university basketball” really part of the educational life of these institutions and all the associated websites, offices, and prgrams that go along with that educatonal life? It doesn’t look like it.
Franciscan University of Steubenville Men’s Basketball
Holy Family University Men’s Basketball
Taylor University Men’s Basketball
Oglethorpe University Men’s Basketball
University at Buffalo Men’s Basketball
Transylvania University Men’s Basketball
Nebraska Wesleyan University Men’s Basketball
Here we do get the websites of teams, and we see why the phrase-based search didn’t turn out quite as expected: the top-ranking team pages are all self-identified as men’s basketball. Not a single women’s team appears in the Google-ranked top-ten. That’s not because of Google: it’s because of how the universities themselves structure and link their websites, and how other people link to them. Google’s ranking just reflects that structure and that pattern of linking.
It’s also revealing that none of the “big names” in national college basketball really appear in these rankings. The reason for that is clear also: they are so commercialized that their university connections are virtually irrelevant.
I have one and keep it by my desk. It’s great for browsing and for imaginative exploration of the American higher education landscape. (And it’s an ideal reference for high school counselors advising their students on college admissions, also.)
People selecting colleges and universities often focus too much on the top-ranking institutions, when there are many fine schools to be found in wonderful locations all across the country. These places are often known regionally but not nationally, and the “Professor Pathfinder” map is a great tool for discovering them.
Looking for a college along the mighty Mississippi? How about a university on the shores of the Great Lakes? Or a Rocky Mountain college, or one on the coast of California? Browse the national educational landscape with this map and find a place to fit your preferences.
Here at the Google College Rankings we use the Google search engine to gain insights into the relative standing of colleges and universities around the world. (Read more about our approach.) As the month of May arrives, let’s take another look at one of the standard rankings many people look for: the best universities in the United States.
In preparing this ranking we always work with a “clean” web browser, because if you’re logged-in to Google with your regular browser and have Google cookies stored, the results you get may be tailored to your previous search preferences. A clean browser, with no stored cookies and not logged-in to any Google accounts, will give us more neutral information. (Even so, Google may still try to customize your results with geotargeting. They think it’s a feature; we think it’s a bug, at least if you can’t turn it off.)
Our best attempt to get a neutral and national result (necessarily filtered through our own advanced bio-neural systems, independent of Google), yields this ranking for the 1st of May:
These are all fine institutions, and a dedicated student could get a first-rate education at any of them. One of our purposes here is to encourage people not to take college rankings too seriously, and to recognize that many factors should be considered by any prospective student. Is this ranking somehow “correct” while the U.S. News ranking is “wrong”? No, but neither is our ranking here wrong; it is based on one set of criteria, while the U.S. News rankings are based on different criteria.
In selecting a university from the above list, the individual characteristics of each institution are far more important than absolute rank. Do you want to be on a giant campus in a big city? Then UCLA might be for you. Do you want to be in the cold north or the mild south? Depending on your answer you might want to consider either the University of Wisconsin or the University of Virginia. Do you want California sunshine or east-coast urbanity? Stanford and Harvard would be a contrasting pair on that scale.
The Google rankings offered here are a starting point—a good, authentic starting point—but they shouldn’t be decisive in any college search, and neither should be the rankings offered by anyone else.
Can Google give us college football rankings? Of course it can! Google can rank anything.
And these rankings are unlike the ones you’ll find anywhere else.
First of all, when people in the United States talk about college football what they really mean is university football. So what can we discover if we search Google for the phrase university football? Well, the first thing we discover is that almost nothing that turns up really comes from either a college or a university—it’s all commercial marketing junk with hardly a .edu domain in the whole list. Wading through all that would severely tax our advanced bio-neural filtering system, so let’s make Google do the work and search for the phrase university football on .edu domains only. Now we’re getting somewhere:
So what are we looking at here? Of course we’re not looking at a ranking of the teams, but at a ranking of football program websites. And the fact that none of the big names in “college” football appear here demonstrates that those big-name programs really aren’t part of the university, but are just independent commercial enterprises. At the universities listed above, the football programs are part of the regular campus like everything else. And that tells you that if you’re a good student who just happens to be really into playing football for the enjoyment of it, these schools may be ones you should consider.
And I confess I had to look some of them up to find out where they are: Tufts is a well-known university in Massachusetts; Taylor University is in Upland, Indiana; and Bloomsburg University is in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Let’s get these teams together for a grand Google-league playoff!
It should be noted that in the raw results from google.dk, the majority of the top-ranking universities are actually in Sweden, since the Swedish word universitet is identical to the Danish word, and the Swedish universities rank higher overall. (Sorry, Denmark.)
What if we search google.dk for university instead of universitet? The institutions are the same, but the rankings shift around a bit:
As one would expect from well-designed international websites, these are all specially-written English-language pages, distinct from the Danish-language pages that come up in the Danish search. And interestingly, in the raw results that google.dk provides when searching for university as opposed to universitet, the Swedish institutions that populated the Danish-language SERPs are gone.
What can the Google-ranking method tell us about universities in New Zealand? If we follow our standard approach, starting with a clean browser and searching google.co.nz for the word university, this is the top-eight ranking we get (after the usual highly advance bio-neural filtering has been applied):
There is one important design principle illustrated by this list: the World Wide Web really is worldwide, and people in any region often forget that visitors may arrive at their websites from far-away places indeed. Such visitors may not know about local institutions, no matter how prominent those institutions are one’s own region or country. I’m afraid I had no idea what “AUT University” was. (Australian University of Technology? But this is supposed to be New Zealand.) The Google snippet tells me that it’s “New Zealand’s most dynamic University,” and that it “offers courses in computing, science, business, engineering, teaching, health, fine arts, applied arts…,” but it still doesn’t tell me its full name. I have to go to the page itself, and even then I have to scroll down to the fine print at the bottom of the page to discover that AUT stands for Auckland University of Technology (and so the page title “AUT University” stands for “Auckland University of Technology University”). This same problem was found in our first attempt to rank Australian universities: what was “RMIT University”? It may be true that everyone in Australia knows, but not everyone searching the web is from Australia.
New Zealand is a small country, and the rankings above pretty much cover the whole “Kiwi” higher education sector. Will they remain stable over time? By querying Google again in the future we will be able to tell.
US News recently released its ranking of American law schools. Their top ten are: (1) Yale Law School; (2) Harvard Law School; (3) Stanford Law School; (4) Columbia Law School; (5) New York University Law School; (6) a tie between the University of California Law School (Boalt Hall) and the University of Chicago Law School; (8) the University of Pennsylvania Law School; (9) the University of Michigan Law School; and (10) a three-way tie between Duke University Law School, Northwestern University Law School, and the University of Virginia Law School.
How does this ranking compare to Google’s American law school rankings for the month of April? As always, we calculate Google’s ranks using a clean browser and with appropriate filtering applied:
A little experimentation shows that these results are particularly unstable: while Suffolk and Boston College often appear in the top ten in today’s searches, they don’t always, with the top three slots more often fluctuating among Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, and Chicago. This latter result is more in line with the Google law school rankings calculated last January, as well as with this month’s US News rankings.
Is the appearance of Suffolk Law and Boston College Law in this list a sign of a more permanent standing to come? Only time will tell. Certainly both institutions offer fine programs and deserve consideration from any prospective students. Suffolk’s comprehensive law program emerged from the distinctively American tradition of night-schools at which ambitious working men could study for legal careers. That’s a proud heritage, and it may well serve as a continuing source of strength.
Only the University of Warsaw appears in the top three in both languages, and the English-language results turn up a number of more technically-oriented schools, which may well devote more of their energies to modern globalized subjects than to traditional historical, literary, and linguistic fields where the local language would occupy pride of place.
Close examination of this list points us to something important. While the most common word for university in Spanish is universidad, in the Catalonian dialect (or language) the word is universitat, as in Universitat de Barcelona. By searching above on the word universidad we missed most of the universities in the Catalonian region of Spain. So let’s rectify that by searching google.es on universitat indead of universidad:
Assembling even this top-three list requires a great deal of bio-neural filtering because Google does not distinguish in its results between the Catalonian universitat and the German Universität. But it does show that the universities of Catalonia have a distinctive standing of their own, independent of the universidades in the rest of Spain.
If we apply the Google-ranking approach to universities in France, what will we discover? A clean browser is essential, as always, so that our own account settings and preferences won’t influence the result. And we can search google.fr either on the French word université or the English word university.
The French-language search gives us these results (after a little advanced bio-neural filtering is applied):
Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University (UVSQ)
Université Paris-Sud 11
Lyon University 2
Université Joseph Fourier
Nice Sophia Antipolis University
Paris Sorbonne University - Paris IV
The lack of overlap between these two listings suggests that the Francophone and Anglophone (or Anglo-friendly) education sectors in France are quite distinct. I don’t believe any of the other countries examined so far have had this much divergence between their local-language university rankings and their English-language rankings.
Germany is the birthplace of the modern research university, and throughout the nineteenth century young people from around the world who were seeking advanced learning traveled to the leading German institutions of that era and brought Germanic research methods and institutional structures back to their home countries.
What can we learn about today’s German universities by examining their Google-rankings? As usual, we can conduct our investigation in English or in the country’s native language.
It’s interesting that the English-language homepages of both Tübingen and Leipzig use the German name of the institution exclusively in the page <title>. (The Bielefeld entry goes to the German-language homepage.) A simple change of the English-language page titles to “University of Tübingen” and “University of Leipzig” might well push them up higher in these English-focused Google rankings.
Continuing our survey of universities in Europe, what can the Google-method of ranking tell us about universities in Finland? I know very little about Finnish higher education, so this will be an educational exercise.
As with other multilingual countries, we have a choice of searching in either English or the primary national language. English is widely used in academic circles in Finalnd, but we should certainly try both.
Tampereen teknillinen yliopisto (Tampere University of Technology)
Lapin yliopisto (University of Lapland)
Most of these universities have detailed websites in both English and Finnish (and often in Swedish as well), and are clearly conscious of the world-wide character of the web (something many other institutions fail to recognize). They all look like wonderful places—I would like to visit every one!
Continuing our survey of top-ranked European universities, what can we learn from Google about universities in Norway? I know very little about Norwegian universities, so this will be an instructive exercise.
When researching a subject about which we know little (such as Norwegian universities), the importance of well-written microcontent can clearly be seen. Google often (though not always) pulls the so-called meta description element from the <head> of a webpage and displays the contents of that element as the “snippet” shown below the entry for that webpage in the search results. A well-written meta description makes a good impression.
Knowing nothing about the University of Oslo, I can learn from Google’s snippet that “The University of Oslo is Norway’s largest and oldest institution of higher education.” That’s clear and informative: it gives me a sense of the place already. The University of Bergen’s snippet is not so well crafted: “The University of Bergen homepage - information in English concerning: research, courses/programmes.” I know it’s the home page, and the fact that it’s in English is obvious too. The NTNU snippet is just too long: “The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim represents academic eminence in technology and the natural sciences as well as in …” Oops—cut off. It isn’t called microcontent for nothing. But that’s OK, because this snippet sounds less like information and more like marketing puffery anyway.
Details such as these all contribute to the impression an institution makes on visitors (including prospective students). It isn’t always possible to control how your web presence is seen or used by others, but attention to things you can control—like the content of your own descriptive elements—certainly helps. Bergen may be #1 and Oslo #2 in the raw rankings, but the impression I get from their own page designs is that Oslo’s the place that really knows what it’s doing.
(Ireland is a small country, so I list only seven institutions here.)
A consistent problem in establishing overall rankings with Google is search-term dependence, and that can be seen here because a number of institutions in Ireland—most notably Trinity College, a major international university founded in 1592—make more prominent use of the word college in their names than the word university.
As an illustration of how irregularly the word college is used, this list contains not only major research and teaching universities such as Trinity College, but also a medical school (the Royal College of Surgeons) and a business training school (Portobello College Dublin).
Someone arrived at the Google College Rankings today by searching the web for “college choir rankings.” People have a tremendous urge to rank everything, don’t they? That’s one of the things that makes Google so appealing to people in so many ways.
What can our favorite search engine tell us about the best college choirs and university choirs in the United States? Well, that depends a bit on how we search—on the phrases “college choir” and “university choir” or on the separate words college choir and university choir. But the results of the two different approaches are not all that different, so let’s try the phrase method. The top-ranking college choirs under such a search are:
And embedded between #3 and #4 in the above list, Google helpfully supplies a video of the choir of Bethany College in West Virginia:
Given the nature of most choral music, it isn’t surprising that a number of these institutions have strong denominational associations or did in the past: St. Olaf College in Minnesota is affiliated with the Lutheran Church, for example, and Knox College in Illinois has historic roots in the Congregational Church.
What about university choirs as opposed to college choirs? Google gives us this top-five ranking:
Here it’s interesting to see historically black universities strongly represented: Morgan State, Fisk, and Howard. Both lists demonstrate something important: colleges and universities are never one-dimensional, nor can an overall one-dimensional ranking system—from highest to lowest—ever capture all the opportunities that can be found on every campus. Strengths can be found everywhere (and yes, weaknesses can be found everywhere, too).
Not surprisingly there’s a good deal of overlap with our first attempt at national university ranking, posted last month. The anomalous University of Tennessee at Knoxville—number two last month—is gone. U.S. News places it at 108, and this week Google does not include it in the top 50, so the explanation of its temporarily high position is unclear. Will it return again? Time will tell. But this demonstrates one of the points that we at the Google College Rankings always wish to emphasize: parents and prospective students should study college and university rankings, but they shouldn’t take them too seriously.
In choosing a university from the above top-ten list, for example, there are factors to consider that would far outweigh numerical rank for almost every student. The massive and northern University of Michigan is a sharply different institution from the smaller and very southern Duke University. A student who would flourish at one might well be unhappy at the other. The sunny California culture of Stanford is very different from the crisp New England culture of Harvard. And yet in terms of academic quality, both are outstanding.
Rankings such as these, or the rankings published by any other agency, are a good place to begin your college search. But they should never be the place where your search ends.
The Google College Rankings is an independent project that uses Google to rank colleges and universities around the world. We are not sponsored or endorsed by Google and we are not Google employees. We just use Google technology to study global higher education.