Fake Rankings

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Kizmet, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly

  3. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    The sliding scale of fakeness looks like:

    Paid for Ranking---------------Manipulated Data for Ranking----------Manipulated Procedures for Ranking​

    Given how much admini-critters salivate over rankings, I'm sorry to say that I think most institutions now fall somewhere on my scale above. I put no faith in overall ranking systems beyond perhaps 'Great, Good, Average, Poor'.
  4. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    So are there any ranking systems that are worth the bother? We frequently see a reference to the Philosophical Gourmet as a system that actually does a good job but clearly, it has limited scope. It's only ranking Philosophy Departments, not the entire school.


    My own criticism of the various ranking systems is that the most important part of the system is the methodology but it's the part of the publication that the average consumer is least likely to read. And even if they read it, a lot of them don't really have the background to decipher it and then apply that understanding to their own particular situation. We all know that a person might not be best served by the top ranked school, even if they could get admitted. So everyone just looks at the Top 10 and then scans the list for their own school, just to see if it has changed position. So, are they all just totally useless?
  5. Helpful2013

    Helpful2013 Active Member

    That’s a good question and deserves a full answer.

    When one is looking at undergraduate universities across the range of disciplines, I don’t think it’s realistic to go any deeper than the categories in my previous post: 'Great, Good, Average, Poor'. There’s just too much variation between departments, and the measurement tools can all be gamed.

    I’m one of the people that has posted links to Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report, which I think is specific enough to have some value, although it's really targeting traditional postgrad programs. Such a study becomes more meaningful as it focuses on one discipline, or better yet, one subfield, at the graduate level where the distinctions are magnified due to the increased importance of individual supervising faculty. I still think Brian Leiter’s report would be more realistic if he only reported ‘bands’ rather than individual institutions, i.e. top ten programs in one band, rather than numbered rankings that suggest there’s some significant difference in quality between Michigan and Pitt (currently no. 4 and no. 5, with almost indistinguishable scores).

    Even at the graduate level in one discipline, something like the Philosophical Gourmet Report is interesting but shouldn’t be relied upon exclusively. For example, with prospective students who know specifically what they want to research, the expertise of a supervisor really should trump everything else. If you want to study the Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus and Trinity College Dublin offers to have John Dillon and Andrew Smith (world experts on Iamblichus) supervise you, that’s the ticket and renders abstract rankings irrelevant.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
    heirophant likes this.
  6. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    I have too.

    They do in the specialized rankings which are really the meat-and-potatoes. Over on the right side there's a column called "group" (group 1, group 2 etc.)

    They say: "The purpose of the specialty rankings is to identify programs in particular fields that a student should investigate for himself or herself... students are urged not to assign much weight at all to small differences (e.g., being in Group 2 versus Group 3)."


    And an example...


    I couldn't agree more (and I like your examples).

    It seems to me that anyone contemplating enrolling in a doctoral program in a subject like philosophy will already have interest areas in the subject. And the prospective student should be familiar enough with the literature to know who the more important authors are in that area of interest. These authors will take various positions on points of controversy and the student will inevitably find him/herself agreeing more with some than with others. So that's all going to factor into program choice, for the young academic careerist at least.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019

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