TODAY Online - NUS placed 94th in new rankings based on innovation

Stanford University tops Reuters list, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in third.


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SINGAPORE — Barely after it broke new ground by climbing to 12th in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings last week, the National University of Singapore has been placed 94th in a separate new university ranking.

Reuters has come up with a list of the world’s top 100 innovative universities based on data compiled by the Intellectual Property and Science business of Thomson Reuters and several of its research platforms.

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which jumped to 13th in the QS ranking, was not in the Reuters Top 100, the latest of a number of global university rankings.

Its particular methodology considered factors such as how often a university’s patent applications were granted, how many patents were filed with global patent offices and local authorities, and how often the university’s patents were cited by others.

Universities were also evaluated in other ways, such as how often their research papers were cited and the percentage of articles featuring an industry co-author.

Stanford University, known for being a leader in computer hardware and software innovation, topped the Reuters list, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in third.

Half of the universities in the list were from Canada, Europe and Asia. For example, Imperial College London was ranked 11th and the University of Cambridge was 25th. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology was 10th and top in Asia.

Notwithstanding its new endeavour, Reuters said absence from the list does not indicate an institution is failing to innovate: “Since the rankings measure innovation on a university-wide ... basis, it may overlook particularly innovative departments or programmes.”

Responding to TODAY’s queries on the ranking, an NUS spokesperson said the university was “definitely supportive of analytical tools that allow (it) to further examine the impact of University research”.

“The Reuters Top 100 ranking is a new methodology and deserves a more in-depth study. Patents are but one measure in a complicated process to demonstrate the impact of research and may not accurately reflect the University’s innovativeness,” she said.

“Nevertheless, NUS is heartened to see that we made it into the Reuters Top 100 ranking,” she added.

Different university rankings take different factors into account. For example, the QS rankings used six performance indicators: Academic reputation, employer reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings are based on 13 performance indicators grouped over five years. They include teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook. Under this ranking, in which innovation was worth 2.5 per cent, NUS and NTU were placed 25th and 61st.

Meanwhile, in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, there are several indicators of academic and research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes; having highly cited researchers as well as papers published and indexed in major citation indices. Here, NUS ranked in the 101st to 150th band, while NTU was in the 151st to 200th band.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had some advice for Singapore’s local universities just last week on the issue of rankings: That while they want to maintain their standing globally, their key performance indicator should be how well they serve Singapore, not how highly they are ranked.

He said the universities should develop an authentic Singaporean character on top of being academically and intellectually rigorous and vibrant.

Observers TODAY spoke to felt that patent grant numbers were not a good determinant of whether a university is innovative or otherwise.

Dr Stephen Murgatroyd, president of Murgatroyd Communications and Consulting and CEO of Collaborative Media Group, said: “Patents are a very poor measure of anything ... I see patents ... as a key way of inhibiting innovation rather than enabling it.”

Likewise, Future-Moves Group chief executive officer Devadas Krishnadas said patents are a “proxy measure” for innovation. He pointed out that the “real measure” of innovations comes from the commercial deployment of new ideas or processes. “We thus need a critical mass of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.”

Singapore Institute of Technology president Tan Thiam Soon noted that the new ranking is “based upon quantifiable data” involving factors such as number of patents cited and academic papers produced. “In reality, innovation involves also many intangible factors, and these are difficult to measure,” he said.

However it is measured, though, observers agree that it is a crucial for the future that universities stay innovative. Mr Devadas said the future economy should be based on knowledge-based enterprises that are “globally scalable”. “This requires a strong feed of indigenous innovation so that the value-capture is local even as the value generated is global,” he added.

Source: TODAY Online