Hebrew University Tess Scheflan 9.12.08
Students attending a lecture at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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Institutions of higher learning in Israel were hit with an unpleasant surprise: In the new world ranking prepared by the London Times Higher Education (THE ) weekly magazine, not a single Israeli institution is listed in the 200 top universities of the world for 2010.

Last year, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem held the 102nd spot in the listing, Tel Aviv University was 114th, and the Haifa Technion came in at 132.

Haaretz has learned that most Israeli universities were not on the list because they failed to respond to repeated requests for information, including on faculty and students, which is necessary for the listing.

TAU and the Hebrew University say that they never received such a request from THE. According to THE, only the Technion and Bar-Ilan University responded with information, but they were ranked 221 and 354 respectively.

As for the other universities, the editor of the ranking, Phil Baty, told Haaretz that although it is upsetting for Israel, he hoped that the Israeli universities would recognize the amount of serious work invested in creating the ranking and the degree to which the methodology was transparent, and would participate in the initiative, like other universities have done. He also expressed certainty that next year "they will be included."

Didn't do their homework

THE says that more than 600 universities participated in the ranking and most provided the necessary information.

A spokesperson for the Hebrew University responded that contrary to the claim of the survey's editors, "following an examination we did not find any such request [for information]. When we asked for the correspondence to the university on the subject, they could not provide it. The university is saddened by the fact that the editors of the ranking did not carry out their work responsibly, and thus harmed the university."

Until this year THE published its ranking with the British firm QS. This year the magazine selected to work with Thomson Reuters, while QS published a separate ranking a week ago.

Tel Aviv University, in a statement last night, said that "the request of Thomson Reuters, which is carrying out the ranking for the Times, never reached the person responsible at the university for such matters. Were we aware of the fact that QS no longer works for the Times, we would have looked into reporting [data] directly to the Times."

Criteria used in the THE ranking have also been changed, which led to significant shifts in the rankings of institutions on the list. The five top spots are held by U.S. institutions: Harvard is first, followed by CalTech, MIT, Stanford and Princeton.

Overall, American institutions rose in the new ranking: seven of the top 10 are U.S. institutions, with Britain's Cambridge and Oxford universities sharing the sixth spot. Of the top 50 universities, 27 are American, and they hold 72 spots of the top 200 ranking institutions.

Five criteria were considered in the new ranking: 30% for the teaching level; 30 percent for the breadth of research, its reputation and the funding it draws; 32.5 percent for the academic influence, the citing of its faculty's work; 2.5 percent for the profits for industry; and 5 percent for the international variety in its student and faculty.

In a different ranking, published by QS last week, British institutions headed the list, with Cambridge listed as first. In that ranking the Hebrew University, TAU and the Technion dropped compared to last year: the Hebrew University dropped to 109, Tel Aviv dropped to 138, and Technion to 159.