VC's Update - Rankings success, prestigious awards and more

14 June 2017

Hi everyone

Several of our academics were recognised on Monday for their outstanding passion and commitment to their fields in the Queen's Birthday honours. Winners included astronomer Professor Ken Freeman and Professor Ann McGrath, who was also one of three recipients from the ANU to recently win an Australian Laureate Fellowship from the ARC. I congratulate all members of the ANU community who have been recognised for their service.

Last week the University celebrated its success with the latest QS World University Rankings rating ANU number one in Australia and 20 in the world, up two places from last year.

The ranking reflects the unique role ANU plays in developing leading research and outstanding teaching. You should all be proud of the role you play in making us the extraordinary institution we are.

I wanted to use this announcement to take a closer look at rankings because if we want to maintain our place as Australia's top university and improve our standing in the world, we must avoid complacency and continue to innovate and differentiate ANU from our competitors.

While it's widely accepted that rankings are never a complete reflection of a university, they are important in shaping perceptions. We know that people take rankings into consideration when they are choosing where to study, work or whether to invest in a university.

There are three global university ranking systems that ANU takes a close interest in - QS World University Ranking, Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) which is often referred to as the Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking.

Rankings tend to move around each year, reflecting the intensity of the contest for global pre-eminence. We advance on some measures and slip in others, relative to our competitors. ANU has an enviable reputation as one of the world's great universities, but our performance is judged in a rapidly changing world. The best approach is to invest in, and insist on, excellence everywhere.

The way rankings are put together differs across QS, THE and ARWU. They all use a number of metrics, including citations, reputation and international faculty to judge where a university ranks.

QS data gives us the top possible score for International Faculty, which underlines the importance of attracting, recruiting and retaining the world's best talent, something the government's recent announcements on skilled migration, if they are implemented, will make much tougher.

Investigating underlying data shows that two thirds of highly cited researchers have been with their institutions for at least 10 years, quantifying the value of attracting and supporting outstanding early career researchers. These emerging stars help to renew the academic community, balancing the ongoing contributions of our senior faculty. 

Of course, ANU only gets recognition for the publications of our colleagues when ANU is used in the publication affiliation, not just the name of school or college. More than 200 ANU name variations have been advised to Thomson Reuters and Scopus but not all variants have or can be captured. I appeal to all researchers to ensure you identify ANU as your institution in your publications - it's a simple thing that can really help our global standing.

Rankings are complex. They are certainly not the be-all-and-end-all, and are an imperfect measure of our performance. But they are widely used, and we cannot ignore them. Having said that, we must never let rankings dominate our thinking. We must be confident enough to define excellence in our own terms and hold ourselves accountable to these standards.