Nobel Prizes and Field Medals as indicators of quality in education and staff

Nobel Prizes and Fields awards clearly measure research excellence, even if they' don’t cover all disciplines (loannidis et al., 2007; Billaut et al., 2010). Altbach (2006b) suggests that the use of Nobel prizes underrepresents the social sciences,

Table 4.1 ARWU methodology (2018)

Criteria and weighting

How it is Definition


Quality of education

Alumni of an The total number of the alumni of an institution winning institution Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals. Alumni are defined as

winning those who obtain bachelor, masters or doctoral degrees

Nobel Prizes from the institution. Different weights are set according and Fields to the periods of obtaining degrees. Should a person

Medals. obtain more than one degree from an institution, the

(10%) institution is considered once only.

Quality of faculty

The staff of The total number of the staff of an institution winning an institution Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Ecowinning nomics and Fields Medal in Mathematics. The staff is

Nobel Prizes defined as those who work at an institution at the time of and Fields winning the prize. Different weights are set according to

Medals. the periods of winning the prizes.


Highly cited The number of highly cited researchers selected by Clar-researchers in ivate Analytics. In November 2016 a new list of highly 21 broad cited researchers was developed. ARWU only considers

subject cate- primary affiliations.

gories. (20%)

Research output

Papers pub- The number of papers published in Nature and Science fished in over a 5-year period. To distinguish the order of author

Nature and affiliation, a weight of 100% is assigned for correspond-

Science ing author affiliation, 50% for first author affiliation

(N&S). (20%) (second author affiliation if the first author affiliation is the same as corresponding author affiliation), 25% for the next author affiliation, and 10% for other author affiliations. Only publications of ‘Article’ type are considered.

Papers Total number of papers indexed in Science Citation

indexed in Index-Expanded and Social Science Citation Index. Only

Science Cita- publications of ‘Article’ type are considered. When cal-tion Index- dilating the total number of papers of an institution, a

expanded and special weight of two was introduced for papers indexed Social Science in Social Science Citation Index.


Index. (20%)

Per capita performance

Per capita The weighted scores of the above five indicators divided

academic per- by the number of full-time equivalent academic staff. If tbrmance of the number of academic staff for institutions of a country' an institution, cannot be obtained, the weighted scores of the above five (10%) indicators is used.

Note: For institutions specialised in humanities and social sciences such as London School of Economics, N&S is not considered, and the weight of N&S is relocated to other indicators. Number of academic staff data is obtained from national agencies such as National Ministry of Education, National Bureau of Statistics, National Association of Universities and Colleges, National Rector’s Conference.

The Big Three: broad issues and ARWU detail 53 humanities and other highly diverse and expanding academic fields, which are fields in which Nobel prizes are not awarded (De Witte & Hudrlikova, 2013; Huang, 2011). Huang (2011) concurs that the two indicators (Nobel prizes and Fields medals) are awarded only for extremely outstanding achievements and underrepresent the wider range of scholarly achievement.

It is also unclear why universities with Nobel- or Fields-winning alumni are necessarily those that provide the best education (loannidis et al., 2007). Similarly, it may be incorrect to assume that having a handful of prize winners is a true reflection of an entire university’s research performance (Huang, 2011). Further investigation by Billaut et al., (2010) report that distinctions such as the A. M. Turing Award in the area of Computer Science or the Bruce Gold Medal in the area of Astronomy, are amongst the many examples of highly prestigious awards that are ignored in the Shanghai ranking.

Nobel and Fields Prize winners have typically performed their ground breaking work elsewhere (Anowar et al., 2015; De Witte & Hudrlikova, 2013). loannidis et al. (2007) found that of 22 Nobel Prize winners in Medicine/Physiology in 1997-2006, only seven did their award-winning work at the institution they were affiliated with when they' received the award. One may' also wonder why prizes attributed long ago are linked with the present quality’ of an institution (Billaut et al., 2010). A university’ can therefore recruit a potential prize winner through head hunting and immediately gain an advantage in ranking without having a direct contribution to that winner’s research achievement (Huang, 2011). Even though the discounting scheme tends to limit the impact of these very’ old prizes and medals, they still have some effect. Moreover, the discounting scheme that is adopted appears completely' arbitrary' (Billaut et al., 2010). Billaut et al. (2010, 7) report a fascinating example regarding the influence of a single Nobel prize on ranking position:

two universities (Free university' of Berlin and Humboldt University', using their names in English) created in Berlin after the partition of Germany and, therefore, the splitting of the University' of Berlin, quarrelled over which one should get the Nobel Prize of Albert Einstein. It turned out that depending on the arbitrary' choice of the university' getting this prize, these two institutions had markedly different positions in the ARWU.

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