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University Rankings

I noted today with pleasure that Bilkent, the university where I work, is now ranked at 112 in the Times Educational Supplement’s world league of universities. Coming in at 112 is not normally a cause for celebration — you don’t hear proud parents crowing “Our Johnny came 112th in the egg-and-spoon race!” for example. But this is in a league table of the 200 top universities in the world, and there are a lot of universities in the world. (I haven’t been able to find a precise number, but it’s definitely more than 10,000.) Moreover, the top twenty are all in Europe or North America, and there is only one other Turkish university there: Middle East Technical University, coming in at 183. That in itself is interesting, since for years we looked up to METU (and arguably METU still looks down on us).

The other thing that is striking is the Anglophone dominance, and in particular, the US dominance. Only 21 of the top 100 universities are from non-English-speaking countries, and some of those, like Hong Kong, Singapore and the Netherlands, could be counted as de facto Anglophone countries. This shouldn’t be too surprising, though, given the dominance of English in research publications, which means that if English isn’t your first, or at least a strong second language, you are at a decided disadvantage. I suspect one of the main reasons why Bilkent and METU made it into the top 200 was that they are English-medium universities. I could moan about the unfairness of English’s world language status (and indeed have done) but the only way to level the playing field in the short term is by raising competency in English. And that, of course, is where we EAP people come in.

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