Cambridge University drops to its lowest-ever place of 7th in marquee ranking of world universities
Old news report based on 2020 ranking, latest table sees Cambridge at second
Social media users, including verified Twitter handles, are claiming that UK’s Cambridge University has slipped to its lowest-ever place in the World University ranking, sharing an image of a Guardian news report, while taking jibes at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
Why The Focus On Cambridge?
A recent lecture delivered by Rahul Gandhi at Cambridge University has reportedly stoked a controversy in India, prompting BJP leaders to slam the Congress leader over criticism from foreign soil. Delivering a lecture at the Cambridge Judge Business School on “Learning to Listen in the 21st Century”, Gandhi launched a scathing attack at the Centre, alleging that an attack has been unleashed on the basic structure of Indian democracy while also claiming that Israeli spyware Pegasus was being used to snoop into his phone. Gandhi’s remarks “praising” China has also raised the ire of the ruling BJP.
Newschecker ran a search using the headline from the viral Guardian report, “Cambridge slips to lowest-ever place in world university table”, which led us to this report, dated June 19, 2019.
According to the report, the latest international university league table compiled by data and research group QS downgrades two-thirds of the 84 UK universities ranked in the top 1,000, following similar declines in 2016 and 2017. “While Oxford was one of the few bright spots – rising from fifth to fourth overall – its ancient rival Cambridge slipped from sixth to seventh, its lowest-ever position, as a result of steadily declining research performance, as measured by citations per member of academic staff,” read the report that is over three years old.
The QS World University Rankings portfolio, compiled by British firm QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) and inaugurated in 2004, is the world’s most popular source of comparative data about university performance.
Taking a cue from this, we ran a search for “QS world rankings 2019”, which led us to this supplement on “The Top 500 Universities in the World 2019”, where Cambridge is ranked sixth.
We then looked up the 2020 edition of the supplement as the Guardian article had mentioned Cambridge slipped from sixth to seventh, indicating that the fall in the ranking was in the next cycle.
The 2020 edition showed Cambridge at 7th rank, as per the Guardian report. We also saw Oxford’s rise from fifth to fourth and that Cambridge has “now fallen behind ETH Zurich in sixth place”, confirming that the Guardian’s June 19, 2019 report was on the 2020 ranking.
Why Is The Ranking Dated For The Next Year?
We looked up QS’s ranking methodology, where, according to their data reporting period, “For all data, it should cover the academic year previous to our rankings cycle…” .
According to QS, “The QS Rankings 2024 cycle has started. All data collected during this cycle will be used to produce rankings beginning with the QS World University Ranking 2024 (to be published June 2023),” indicating that the QS World University Ranking 2020 was most likely to have been published in June 2019, around the same time Guardian reported it then.
We then saw that the QS World University Ranking 2023, published on June 8, 2022, placed Cambridge at second, confirming that the viral claim was false and the Guardian news report shared was an old one.
Old Guardian report on Cambridge’s seventh place in the QS World University Ranking 2020 falsely claimed to be the latest. The actual latest ranking pegs Cambridge at second.
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