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Innovative insight into scientific development from CWTS Leiden World Rankings 2014 – Canada

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For many traditional academic centers of prestige, the CWTS Leiden World Rankings can put somewhat of a downer on an otherwise sunny academic year. Countries usually found to dominate more populist rankings like MacLean’s and Times Higher Education can find themselves rather low down on this informative and idiosyncratic guide to research impact. Canada is no exception, but within the data it is possible to see some surging success stories and some startling insights into regional research trends.

As a fairly new arrival to the world university tables-scene, the study comes out of the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands and reveals the scientific contribution made by 750 universities. By revealing raw data sourced from the most respected academic journals from the last five years, the Leiden Rankings has found that 28 Canadian universities and their constituent research centers have made the grade. A key part of what the study connotes is the extent to which universities broker collaboration and elicit citations of their faculty’s work. This way, the impact of a particular researcher can be measured over time and while the Leiden Rankings do not attempt to reveal anything about the student experience, they do give a stark insight into the reputational standing of an institution in real terms.

While the results may not always be welcome reading, the intricate bibliometric approach of the study allows shrewd students and prospective faculty to gauge their own future participation in the generation and transfer of global knowledge. While five-year plans may be written in response to the Times Higher Education findings, pedagogic performance is rapidly being measured by the impact of the Leiden Rankings. Out of the 28 Canadian institutions, only one has made it into the top 200 this year, joining Israel, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Singapore in the single digits entries. The Leiden 2014 top 10 for Canada, with global positioning stated in brackets, is as follows:

1 (87) University of Toronto

2 (109) University of British Columbia

3 (119) McGill University

4 (183) University Victoria  

5 (185) University of Ottawa

6 (188) McMaster University

7 (228) University of Calgary

8 (235) University of Sherbrooke

9 (243) University of Québec

10 (267) Simon Fraser University

Those with a future or existing stake in Canadian university-sector education can see that every Canadian institution in the top 10 rose in ranking from 2013, except the University of British Colombia which fell 10 places. Most showed signs of steady increase, with the University of Calgary strongly increasing its position from 292 to 228 in the world rankings. But outside of the top 10, decrease was the norm, with three universities; Simon Fraser University, University of Waterloo and the University of Montreal, showing a sharp fall in their global standing. But the real success story, managing to achieve renown in the scientific community with the obvious hindrance of not even having a medical school, was the University of Victoria, which achieved fourth place amongst Canadian universities and number one for internationally co-authored research. But it was one province that surprising many commentators. The Francophone institutions in the province of Quebec have vastly outstripped their usual positioning in the more populist rankings, revealing the extent to which the Leiden Rankings invite a fresh take on the global university hierarchy.