Novel university ranking system lists Hebrew U in top 50 worldwide
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Novel university ranking system lists Hebrew U in top 50 worldwide

French researchers parse Wikipedia, rate Jerusalem institution as 47th most important in the world

View of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus seen from Jerusalem's Old City, on June 10, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
View of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus seen from Jerusalem's Old City, on June 10, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A new ranking has determined, based on the number of times institutions of higher learning were cited in online encyclopedia Wikipedia, that Hebrew University is the 47th most influential such institution in the world.

Using Google to parse Wikipedia pages, the Wikipedia Ranking of World Universities lists the top 100 universities worldwide, based on their real influence, divorced from cultural biases of experts, students, administrators or others.

The ranking was not developed by Wikipedia itself, but by several researchers at French universities — Jose Lages and Antoine Patt at Université de Franche-Comte and Dima L. Shepelyansky at Université de Toulouse — taking into account all citations in all articles in all 24 languages Wikipedia language editions.

Using Google PageRank scores, which list the popularity of pages, as well as page ranking systems 2DRank and CheiRank, the system “allows us to incorporate various cultural views on world universities using the mathematical statistical analysis independent of cultural preferences,” the researchers said, adding that university rankings tend to give more weight to American or European institutions because of language or cultural issues.

The PageRank algorithm that Google uses to rank websites in search results looks at the network of links between Internet sites to determine which are the most important, and ranks a node as important if other important nodes point to it. The researchers applied this process to Wikipedia articles, with each university mentioned in a Wikipedia article counted as a node in the network, and with the links pointing to it determining how high it ranks.

The system analyzed about 4 million articles in English, 1.5 million in German, and around 1 million in each of Dutch, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish, and several other languages. Universities are generally mentioned in articles on technical, scholarly, or scientific subjects, the authors said.

The UK led the rankings, with Cambridge and Oxford taking first and second place, followed by American universities Harvard, Columbia and Princeton. Eight of the top ten were in the US. The first non-American or British university listed was Humboldt University of Berlin, in 11th place, followed by Uppsala University in Sweden, in 15th place.

Other Israeli institutions on the list include the Technion (#108), Tel Aviv University (#168), Weizmann Institute of Science (#183), Bar-Ilan University (# 201), Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (# 221), University of Haifa (#211), Ariel University (#321), and Holon Institute of Technology (#670).

According to the researchers, their system is more accurate than other ranking systems because it removes the human factor.

“Ranking approaches are based on human selection rules which cannot be complete or can favor certain cultural choices and preferences,” the researchers said.

“Thus it is useful to have an independent mathematical statistical method which would rank universities independently of any human rules. The Wikipedia ranking provides the firm mathematical statistical evaluation of world universities which can be viewed as a new independent ranking complementary to already existing approaches. We hope that our method will also find a broad usage together with other rankings,” they added.

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