Friday, March 8th, 2013

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president until his death yesterday, loved to read. So much so that he attributed his turn to socialism, in 2005, to the French classic Les Misérables. In a New Yorker obituary, Jon Lee Anderson, who met him several times, recalls enquiring about his political evolution. “I asked him why, so late in the day, he had decided to adopt socialism,” Anderson writes. “He acknowledged that he had come to it late, long after most of the world had abandoned it, but said that it had clicked for him after he had read Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Misérables. That, and listening to Fidel [Castro].”


In fact, the “Comandante,” as his followers called him, spent a great deal of time quoting and analyzing Hugo’s social novel, the story of the wretched of France—Cosette, the orphan, Fantine, the prostitute, Jean Valjean, the well-intended convict—at the beginning of the 19th century. Back then, Chávez would argue, France was very similar to today’s Venezuela—and even to Latin America as a whole. That’s what he explained during a Parisian press conference, in 2007. “You want to meet Jean Valjean?” he asked the crowd of reporters. “Go to Latin America.  There are many Jean Valjeans in Latin America. Many: I know some. You want to know Fantine? There are many Fantines in Latin America—and in Africa too. You want to know little Cosette and all the others… you want to know Marius? They’re all down there in Latin America.”

Praising Hugo’s novel was a way for Chávez to show his social conscience, not only in front of the French but also before the Venezuelan masses he claimed to educate. He often evoked the book to defend his policies, reminding the public that his government was devoted to the lower classes, “those who spent much of their life in total misery, like Victor Hugo would say,” as he put it in a 2005 speech.

Yet Chávez’s literary legacy, like the rest of his governing style, did not come without criticism. Under his rule, book clubs became a political statement. The man who oncehanded Barack Obama a copy of The Open Veins of Latin America, a book by Eduardo Galeano that details how Latin countries were exploited by Europe and later the United States, offered very specific book endorsements. His “Revolutionary Reading Plan,” a program that mainly involved giant book giveaways and a list of government-recommended texts, was denounced as a form of indoctrination by the country’s opposition.

Among the Chavista-approved books that quickly filled Venezuela’s libraries were, unsurprisingly, Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and, less predictably, Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixotea novel that he believed could “feed us with a fighting spirit and the will to fix the world” (along with Les Misérables, of course). Those works were chosen to “strengthen 21st-century socialism.” The government agencies in charge argued that they were not an arm of the thought police. “What we’re doing is putting books within everybody’s reach, including children’s literature with absolutely no political content,” saidEdgar Roa, who was in charge of the giveaways. “Or Les Misérables by Victor Hugo which can be interpreted in many different ways depending on your political colors,” he added.

But the “book squadrons” that patrolled public areas encouraging Venezuelans to read seemed to hinder the educational message behind said book plan, and looked a bit like something out of George Orwell’s 1984 (a novel that did not make it onto Chávez’s list). As the BBC reported, “Each squadron wears a different colour to identify their type of book. For example, the red team promotes autobiographies while the black team discusses books on ‘militant resistance.’ ”

As far as Hugo’s work is concerned, Chávez may have missed the fact that the French author wrote Les Misérables in part during his political exile, when he was protesting against Napoleon III’s autocratic leadership. Some of his other works, like the book of satirical poems Les Châtiments, are highly critical of authoritarian governments. As far I can tell, Chávez never read those poems.

By , Wednesday, March 6, 2013

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The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-2013 powered by Thomson Reuters are the only global university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The top universities rankings employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.

Top universities by region

Top universities by subject


The World Reputation Rankings measure an increasingly vital element in the social-network age, say Phil Baty

Reputation is subjective, messy and nebulous, but it matters deeply in today’s competitive global higher education sector.

Research has shown that a university’s reputation is the top priority (over location or even salary) for academics moving jobs, and it is the number one consideration for internationally mobile students, above tuition fees and course content. 

It can also be key to attracting collaborative partnerships and funding from alumni, philanthropists and industry.

And although reputations once gained can often be stubbornly enduring, things can change quickly in an information-rich, multimedia and socially networked age. The stakes are high.

“The strength of a university’s brand both depends upon and feeds into the success of the institution itself,” writes David Copping, a senior associate at the London law firm Farrer & Co.

“If a university thrives, the value of its brand will increase, in turn creating a virtuous feedback loop as academics, students and funding are drawn in. But the reverse is also true: failures of compliance or strategy can tarnish and at worst destroy this key asset, trapping the institution in a downward spiral.”

Given the importance of what is at stake, the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings have quickly developed into a powerful and highly cited global benchmark of universities’ academic prestige – a trusted brand index. So it is essential that the research underpinning the rankings can bear the weight being placed on it.

This top 100 list is based on the world’s largest invitation-only survey of experienced, published academics, carried out by the polling company Ipsos MediaCT for our rankings data provider, Thomson Reuters.

Respondents are carefully selected to be statistically representative of their country and their specialist discipline, and are asked to name a small number of institutions based on their own expert, subject-specific experience and knowledge. So the list gives a representative and balanced view of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.

The 2013 rankings are based on a staggering 16,639 survey responses. In the three short rounds of the annual survey thus far, almost 50,000 responses have been gathered from more than 150 countries.

The reputation rankings are based on nothing more than subjective judgement, but it is the judgement of experts. It is thanks to their expertise and engagement with this important exercise that we can bring you this trusted picture of the most reputable universities in the world.

* Phil Baty is the Times Higher Education World University Rankings editor 2013

Top North American universities 2012-13

Rank Institution Country / Region Overall scorechange criteria
1 California Institute of Technology United States
2 Stanford University United States
4 Harvard University United States
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
6 Princeton University United States
9 University of California, Berkeley United States
10 University of Chicago United States
11 Yale University United States
13 University of California, Los Angeles United States
14 Columbia University United States
15 University of Pennsylvania United States
16 Johns Hopkins University United States
18 Cornell University United States
19 Northwestern University United States
20 University of Michigan United States
21 University of Toronto Canada
22 Carnegie Mellon University United States
23 Duke University United States
24 University of Washington United States
25 Georgia Institute of Technology United States
25 University of Texas at Austin United States
30 University of British Columbia Canada
31 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
33 University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign United States
34 McGill University Canada
35 University of California, Santa Barbara United States
38 University of California, San Diego United States
41 New York University United States
42 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
44 University of California, Davis United States
44 Washington University in St Louis United States
47 University of Minnesota United States
51 Brown University United States
53 Ohio State University United States
54 Boston University United States
56 University of Southern California United States
61 Pennsylvania State University United States
69 Purdue University United States
72 University of Massachusetts United States
75 Rice University United States
76 University of Pittsburgh United States
79 Emory University United States
84 University of Montreal Canada
87 Tufts University United States
88 McMaster University Canada
91 University of Colorado Boulder United States
94 University of Notre Dame United States
94 Michigan State University United States
96 University of California, Irvine United States
97 University of Maryland, College Park United States
98 University of Arizona United States
99 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey United States
102 University of Rochester United States
104 Case Western Reserve University United States
106 Vanderbilt University United States
118 University of Virginia United States
121 University of Alberta Canada
122 University of California, Santa Cruz United States
122 University of Florida United States
124 Dartmouth College United States
134 University of Utah United States
134 Indiana University United States
148 Arizona State University United States
150 Boston College United States
154 University of California, Riverside United States
156 Yeshiva University United States
156 Texas A&M University United States
162 Stony Brook University United States
165 University of Delaware United States
167 University of Texas at Dallas United States
168 George Washington University United States
169 University of Iowa United States
171 University of Ottawa Canada
174 Georgetown University United States
174 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute United States
184 William & Mary United States
184 Colorado School of Mines United States
184 University of Illinois at Chicago United States
189 Medical University of South Carolina United States
190 Wake Forest University United States
193 Iowa State University United States
193 University of Miami United States
196 University of Victoria Canada
198 University at Buffalo United States 46.6

Rankings methodology: experts recognise these as the best

The excellent response to the third round of the annual Academic Reputation Survey gives an even more accurate picture of scholarly opinion.

Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings are created using the world’s largest invitation-only survey of academic opinion – a truly unique piece of research.

The Academic Reputation Survey, available in 10 languages, uses United Nations data to ensure that it is-properly distributed to reflect the demographics of world scholarship.
It is also evenly spread across academic disciplines.

Those invited to take part are statistically representative of both their country and their discipline.

The questionnaire, administered by polling company Ipsos MediaCT for THE’s rankings data supplier Thomson Reuters, targets only experienced, published scholars, who offer their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines and at institutions with which they are familiar.

The 2013 rankings are based on a survey carried out in March and April 2012, which received 16,639 responses from 144 countries. When polled, the respondents on average had been working in the academy for 17 years.

With 13,388 answers to the first Academic Reputation Survey in 2010 and a further 17,554 in 2011, just under 48,000 detailed expert responses from more than 150 countries have now been collected in just three annual rounds.

There is a balanced spread of responses across disciplines. In 2013, the most (22.1 per cent) have come from the social sciences, followed by engineering and technology (21.3 per cent), physical sciences (18.0 per cent), clinical subjects (15.4 per cent) and the life sciences (12.7 per cent), with the arts and humanities polling the lowest (10.5 per cent).

The spread across the regions is also well balanced: 33 per cent of responses hail from North America, 17 per cent from Western Europe, 12 per cent from East Asia, 10 per cent from Oceania, 6 per cent from Eastern Europe, 5 per cent from South America and 5 per cent from the Middle East.

In the survey, scholars are -questioned at the level of their specific subject discipline. They are not asked to create a ranking or to list a large range of institutions, but to name no more than 15 of those they believe to be the best, based on their own experience.

To help elicit more meaningful responses, respondents are asked “action-based” questions, such as: “Which university would you send your most talented graduates to for the best postgraduate supervision?”

The survey data were used alongside 11 objective indicators to help create the 2012-13 World University Rankings, which were unveiled in October last year. The reputation data are published alone each year to create the World Reputation Rankings.

Calculating the scores
The reputation table ranks institutions according to an overall measure of their esteem that combines data on their reputation for research and for teaching.

The two scores are combined at a ratio of 2:1, giving more weight to research because feedback from our expert advisers suggests that there is greater confidence in respondents’ ability to make accurate judgements about research quality.

The scores are based on the number of times an institution is cited by respondents as being the best in their field. The number one institution, Harvard University, was selected most often. The scores for all other institutions in the table are expressed as a percentage of Harvard’s, set at 100. For example, the University of Oxford received 73 per cent of the number of nominations that Harvard received, giving it a score of 73 against Harvard’s 100. This scoring system, which is different from the one used in the World University Rankings, is intended to provide a clearer and more meaningful perspective on the reputation data in isolation.

The top 100 universities by reputation are listed, but Times Higher Education has agreed with data supplier Thomson Reuters to rank only the top 50 because the differentials between institutions after that point become very narrow. The institutions that make up the second half of the table are listed in groups of 10, in alphabetical order. Scores are given to one decimal place, but were calculated to greater precision.