There are many ways to judge the quality of a university: the results of its students, the research it produces, perhaps even the number of Nobel prizes it boasts. But how about using Wikipedia citations instead?
That's what a team of researchers from the University of Franche-Comte in France have done. In a paper published on the arXiv server, the team explains how they have applied the Pagerank algorithm made famous by Google to probe the inter-relations between Wikipedia pages and their mentions of Universties. In the analysis, each University is a node and the more links made to it, the more influential it is.
The team has applied the technique to 24 different language editions of Wikipedia, creating a database that includes four million articles in English, and least 1 million in each of German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. Each language naturally favours its own universities, so the team then combined the list to create a Top 100. Here's the top 20:
1. University of Cambridge U.K.
2. University of Oxford U.K.
3. Harvard University U.S.
4. Columbia University U.S.
5. Princeton University U.S.
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology U.S.
7. University of Chicago U.S.
8. Stanford University U.S.
9. Yale University U.S.
10 University of California, Berkeley U.S.
11. Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
12. Cornell University U.S.
13. University of Pennsylvania U.S.
14. University of London U.K.
15. Uppsala University Sweden
16. University of Edinburgh U.K.
17. Heidelberg University Germany
18. University of California, Los Angeles U.S.
19. New York University U.S.
20. University of Michigan U.S.
There are, unsurprisingly, plenty of many common names in the list. But as the arXiv blog points out, there are some pretty noticeable differences between this listing and most international rankings of universities made using alternative metrics. Notably, the list created using Wikipedia seems to favour older universities. Presumably that's because they have a greater cultural impact, and people like to name-check them as a result.
Image by Kristina Alexanderson under Creative Commons licence