Times Higher Education university ranking is released. An good but not remarkable university ends up fourth in the world for research impact. The reason: One researcher that has been citing his own work at every turn. That inflation of citations in one single discipline is enough to trump the massed citations of major research universities.

Thus, the perhaps most trusted ranking is so very easily gamed by a single person in perhaps the most important ranking factor. Now, imagine how easy it might be to manipulate the ranking in "softer", less easily measured areas such as undegraduate education. And imagine how much the system can be gamed if the university officers — not just a lone researcher at a single department — decide that their university really deserves a better rank.

Or, in other words, don't trust these rankings. Ignore them completely, in fact. Even if they were actually accurate and unbiased (unlikely, given how much money there is for universities in getting a better ranking)  they are not informative for any one students or researchers experience. What you get out of it depends far more on the individual department, on the particulars of your fellow students or coworkers, and on how well you fit in.
There's one aspect of the El Nashie story that I love and that I think means that his net impact on academia is positive: he made the Times Higher Education university research impact table look ridiculous. Alexandria university is 147th overall but 4th for research impact. It seems that El Naschie managed this single handed.


A discussion of how he did it can be found here: http://elnaschiewatch.blogspot.fr/2010/09/caltech-mit-princeton-alexandria.html
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