York International’s Shubert finds global rankings boost York overseas

As associate vice-president international at York, Adrian Shubert travels a lot. He has just returned from Tokyo, where he, along with Associate VP Academic Learning Initiatives Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt and Paula Wilson, associate dean of student affairs in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, gave presentations to the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Association for Higher Education.

"Wherever I go – Asia, Europe, Latin America – people know about York University, and they know about it because of the work of our teachers and researchers. This was true even went I went to a place as far off the beaten track as Brunei," says Shubert, who is not the only one from York to have such experiences. "Many of our colleagues have told me that they have had exactly the same experience on their travels."

Right: Adrian Shubert at the Asia-Pacific Association for Higher Education in Tokyo

York’s international reputation is more than just an accumulation of anecdotes. In the last five years, two major international rankings of universities have recognized York in a substantial manner as a major international research university – the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Top 500 and Times Higher Education magazine’s World University Rankings.

Shubert recognizes that all rankings are controversial. The Times Higher Education (THE) and Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings undoubtedly have flaws, but at least they attempt to measure actual research done and its impact, not just the proxy of grant dollars, says Shubert. "The reality is that they are getting increasing attention, especially internationally. Out in the world, no one knows about Maclean’s [magazine], but everyone knows about these two."

The ranking by Shanghai Jiao Tong University is heavily weighted towards research in science, medicine and engineering, which means it undervalues the areas of York’s greatest strengths. Thirty per cent of the score goes to alumni and faculty who have won Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals, while another 20 per cent goes to articles published in the two journals Nature and Science. Even so, York appears on what Shubert calls the "Fortune Top 500 of universities".

The THE methodology is based on a composite of six measures: a review by 1,471 employers who recruit graduates around the world; faculty to student ratio; the number of international faculty; the number of international students; a peer review by 5,101 people; and the number of citations. The last two, which account for half of the overall result, reveal "who is good at research". The latest version of the THE ranking came out last November and listed York at 41 in the world in social sciences. The introduction to this section of the report clearly states the broad importance of the social sciences: "The social sciences affect more people every day than perhaps any other area of academic life."

Shubert feels that this is an impressive accomplishment, especially for a university which is just about to celebrate its 50th birthday. It certainly makes his job easier. "Because of our international reputation, leading universities around the world want to have an institutional relationship with us. The list of our partner universities certainly bears this out."

For more information, visit the York International Web site.