The QS World University Rankings by Subject rate the top universities annually in 51 different disciplines based on key indicators. The University of Auckland came in at #81 overall, holding its place in the top 100. The highest placers in their respective subjects for 2021 at UoA are Pharmacy and Pharmacology at #28 and Education at #29.
Craccum talked to Jeff Harrison, Pharmacy Head of School, Malcolm Tingle, Pharmacology Department Head and Mark Barrow, Faculty of Education Dean, about the results.
Pharmacy and pharmacology have placed in the top 50 since 2018. Harrison and Tingle say they are “delighted” to have held their position in the rankings but that it isn’t something they fixate on. “We don’t chase rankings. They are a by-product of focusing on doing high-quality research that answers useful and important questions.”
“Our primary focus is on the work we do here. We aim to recruit and retain excellent researchers and support them in doing world-class research that is important to New Zealand and New Zealanders. If you do that bit right, the rest follows, hopefully.”
Over in Education, Barrow says their wide breadth of research has contributed to their global success for several years. “We score particularly highly in indicators of research impact – people read what we write and use it. We also have a very good reputation amongst employers of our graduates.”
Harrison and Tingle also say their research sets Pharmacy and Pharmacology at UoA apart from the rest. “The rankings are made up of four different scores; academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations, and impact of research. In the last two categories, we moved from 133rd to 6th and from 139th to 4th globally in the last three years. In both those categories, we’re the leading institution in Oceania.”
However, both Harrison and Tingle agree the University’s academic reputation needs improvement. “It isn’t only about research. Academic reputation accounts for 40% of the ranking. This attempts to measure how academics from other universities, mostly internationally, perceive The University of Auckland. Auckland has slipped a little bit here, but we’re still doing pretty well compared to universities internationally, many of whom are better resourced (for which you can read have more cash).”
The Education Department Head says the subject’s international accolades make UOA an attractive option for study. “Our international ranking also attracts many doctoral students from within New Zealand and internationally. Our large doctoral programme further cements our global reputation. It is a virtuous circle.”
Barrow hopes Education’s high ranking will lead to more investment in the sector. “Craccum readers will be well aware of the many educational challenges we face as a country. And yet successive governments fail to invest in educational research, looking overseas for solutions that are not usually designed for the diverse population in the New Zealand education system. Our rankings should show politicians we have the talent in NZ to address these challenges. It would be heartening if they were prepared to fund us to do that.”
Harrison and Tingle say their high ranking will “open doors” for the subjects. Before COVID-19, their global placement would attract international PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and the best academic staff. Harrison says the main benefit from these rankings is forming valuable connections with other universities. “Most research collaborations are driven by existing relationships between people. But if you reach out to new people, it helps to be from an institution perceived to be good.