On Friday, Times Higher Education, a British magazine, released its 2010 rankings of the top 200 universities in the world. Rice University, ranked 47th, naturally began touting the fact that it is “the only university in Texas” to make the cut. So where were the others?

In last year's rankings, Rice was ranked 100th and was accompanied on the list by Texas A&M University (179th) and the University of Texas (76th). This year, A&M dips to 205th place, coming in just below the top group (extended rankings are available on the magazine's iPhone application). UT, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found.

University officials said UT's absence is not due to an epic fall — they simply declined to participate.

Kristi Fisher, director of UT’s Office of Information Management and Analysis, said they opted out for two reasons. First, budget cuts have caused resource constraints, and projects must be chosen carefully. Also, the survey was using new methodology for the first time, and there was talk it might be suspect. “The last thing we wanted to do was spend a lot of resources to participate in a survey that might have flawed methodology behind it,” Fisher said.

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As recently as last year, Times Higher Education compiled the rankings in partnership with education company Quacquarelli Symonds. But the two companies parted ways and, this year, Times Higher Education joined with Thomson Reuters for the first time and totally overhauled their methodology. 

The new rankings were based on the following five broad categories:

  • Teaching — the learning environment (worth 30 percent of the final ranking score)
  • Research — volume, income and reputation (worth 30 percent)
  • Citations — research influence (worth 32.5 percent)
  • Industry income — innovation (worth 2.5 percent)
  • International mix — staff and students (worth 5 percent)

On its website, Times Higher Education calls the subsequent list their "most rigorous, transparent and reliable rankings tables ever."

If that is, in fact, the case, UT might try to get back on board in 2011. “We’ll wait and let this shake out and see what happens,” Fisher said, “and maybe we’ll participate next year.”

Other Texas schools that opted in this year and fell short of the top 200 include the University of Texas at Dallas (232nd), the University of Texas at Arlington (363rd) and the University of North Texas (387th).

Though it no longer collaborates with Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli still publishes its own rankings. UT is ranked 67th, just ahead of the University of Auckland. Rice is 115th, and A&M is 198th.

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