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U-Md. cracks top 100 on a global ranking

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It’s common knowledge that the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia are both prestigious institutions. It’s also a given that the Charlottesville school is a bit higher than its College Park counterpart in the pecking order of state flagship universities.

But outside the United States, apparently, a fair number of experts have a different view.

New “world reputation rankings” from Times Higher Education, a publication based in the United Kingdom, show that U-Md. has moved into the global top 100. U-Va. has not.

Among U-Md.’s peers, in a group of schools that THE ranked from 91st to 100th, are Monash University in Australia, Lund in Sweden, Bristol in the U.K., the Free University of Berlin and Texas A&M.

The rankings, based on surveys of academics around the world, were published late Monday.

The top universities by reputation were unsurprising: Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Oxford and the University of California, Berkeley, in that order. Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, ranked 19th, the highest from the Maryland-Virginia-D.C. region.

As higher education has globalized, rankings have proliferated, too, much as the U.S. News & World Report lists affect the U.S. market.

“It’s really become a big thing all around the world,” said Ben Wildavsky, a former U.S. News education editor and author of a book on the globalization of college, “The Great Brain Race.” “We now have a global higher education marketplace. Markets in education, like markets in finance, need information in order to function. Global rankings, for better or for worse, are one of the sources of information people use.”

Wildavsky said many students in Asia, for instance, consult such rankings when deciding where to apply to college if they are interested in a U.S. school.

Ranking results and methodologies are often subject to debate. Phil Baty, editor at large and rankings editor for THE, said the rankings were based on a survey that drew 16,639 responses from academics invited to participate.

“We literally say, ‘Name the very best institutions in your field for both teaching and research,’” Baty said. “We’re asking them based on direct experience. If you’re a published scholar in chemistry, you are going to know where all the exciting research is done in chemistry.”

Universities on the rise will often tout rankings. But a quick scan of the U-Md. Web site Tuesday afternoon found no mention of College Park’s new prestige talking point.

U-Va.’s Web site, predictably, was silent on the matter.

Folks in Charlottesville might take solace from being 24th on the U.S. News national university list, ahead of College Park’s ranking of 58th. Or they might not.

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