University Rankings for Economics and Econ Department Directories

University Rankings for Economics and Econ Department Directories

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Following the entry on this blog last month about countries with the most top 100 economics departments according to REPEC data, I thought it a worthwhile pursuit to look a little more into these rankings, and to seek out some alternatives to that offered by REPEC.

Below I have linked a variety of institution and department rankings relevant for economists, noting for each how they are calculated and how they may be used. Broadly there are two “types” of ranking: first the “big three”, which rate universities across all subject areas but which also offer some figures broken down by department, and second those rankings purely focused on economics departments and institutions. Enjoy.

General University Rankings

1) Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) in Economics and Business
This popular ranking for universities across all subjects also offers rankings for specific subject areas, including Economics and Business. The ARWU Ranking is based on six factors, including the number of papers published and citations, the number of “highly cited” authors and the numbers of Nobel Prize winners from an institution. The top 50 universities for economics and business are listed in full, with those ranked 51-200 “clustered” into groups of 25 or 50 universities.

Recently the ability has been added for students and staff (current or former) to rate institutions based on their experience there. Currently this does not provide a ranking as such, but can be accessed by looking at the profile for each institution.

2) QS Rankings – Economics and Econometrics
The QS Rankings, like the Shanghai ARWU, is first and foremost a ranking of universities, although a breakdown by subject area is available too. The QS Ranking is based on a survey among academics, which asks them to rate universities by research output, a survey among employers, which asks these to rate universities on the quality of graduates, and then additionally faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty, and ratios of international students and faculty. QS has also recently introduced a “Stars” system which awards it to universities based on a wider range of criteria, from teaching/research quality, to infrastructure and specialist subject criteria.

From 2004 to 2009 QS worked with the British Times newspaper, which split to form its own ranking in conjunction with Thomson Reuters in 2009.

3) Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings – Social Sciences
The third of the big three Rankings for universities across all subjects is the THE Ranking which broke off from its partnership with QS in 2009. The THE Ranking does not provide separate rankings for specific subjects, instead offering only results for six broad subject areas. Economics and related subjects fall largely into “Social Sciences”.

The THE Ranking shows the top 50 departments for each subject area, and the top 200 universities across all subjects.

Specific Economics Rankings & Directories

1) REPEC – Top 25% Economics Departments
Updated monthly and based on a variety of REPEC data, including number of authors, citations and popularity ratings, the REPEC department listing is in many ways the most complete economics department listing around. It is, however, reliant on authors and institutions registered with REPEC, which although very comprehensive, does not claim to be complete.

2) REPEC – Top 10% Economic Institutions
This is similar to the REPEC department listing, but with all institutions, including international organizations, research institutes and central banks. It is also possible to compile custom rankings using only some data [http://ideas.repec.org/cgi-bin/newrank.cgi].

3) The Tilburg University Top 100 Worldwide Economics Schools Research Ranking 
based on research contribution 2007-2011

Tilburg University, responding to an identified lack of university rankings specifically for economics, in 2004 developed their own ranking system. The Tilburg Ranking is based on research output of institutions in terms of the number of articles and papers published in internationally recognized journals. The publicised “default” ranking is based on research output between 2007 and 2011 in the 70 journals identified as most important in the field of economics.

“sandbox” mode also allows anyone to compile a ranking based on a custom set of economics-related journals in any period between 1990 and 2011. It is also possible to create rankings for a region or specific country.

Other Rankings

Many working papers and journal articles have either usefully summarized economics department rankings (often in conjunction with a ranking of journals), or have contributed to the development of new ranking methodologies. These articles are too many to list here, but a comprehensive, if not particularly easy to navigate list can be found on the econometricslinks.com website. And of course, on INOMICS you can find an ever-growing directory of institutions with information and links to their corresponding jobs, courses and conferences.

Any ranking is subject to criticism and questioning, and this is as true for rankings of economics departments as it is for anything else. Common criticisms include too much focus on US institutions, or English-language research output. Some may criticise that there is either too much or too little focus on a specific factor, such as research output or student satisfaction. Additionally rankings that are methodologically complex may be criticised as too “opaque”, whereas others using simpler methodologies may be considered too shallow by some.

This doesn’t mean though that economics department rankings are not useful or informative. Clearly a ranking system that gives more weight to research quality is more relevant for someone interested in conducting research, whereas a ranking system that takes into account student experience and employment prospects is of more value to someone considering a Masters or PhD program in Economics. Additionally, rankings increasingly allow a degree of customisation, so that anybody can apply more weight to certain factors, or at least see the rankings for each factor separately, and even encourage a kind of “crowdsourcing” in the compilation of data, inviting mass input and feedback from anyone currently or previously affiliated with an institution.

If you have found the approaches of any of the rankings above particularly useful or relevant, or if you have used other economics rankings which you believe are useful for economists or economics students, please share them in the comments below.

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