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):
- University of Auckland
- University of Canterbury
- Massey University
- University of Otago
- University of Waikato
- Victoria University of Wellington
- AUT University
- Lincoln University
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.