Imperial has climbed two places in the Times Higher Education (THE) university rankings by their provisions for physical sciences.
The league tables, which were released earlier this week, place Imperial at 9th in the world for physical sciences – a category THE equates to mathematics, physics, chemistry, and geology and earth sciences. Imperial’s ranking is two places up from 2017, and seven places up from 2016. The rankings place Imperial 3rd best in the country, behind the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, which achieved global ranks of 5th and 6th respectively, within a top 20 dominated by American higher education providers.
The rankings are based on metrics, including citations, industry income, teaching, and research. Imperial showed an increase across all metrics, most significantly in international outlook and citations.
The rankings provide a contrast with a number of other subject-based league tables, which highlighted issues with student satisfaction. The most striking of these were the Guardian University League Tables, which placed Imperial 18th in the country for Chemistry, and 30th for Physics. For physics, this was a sharp drop from the previous year’s rankings, in which they placed 8th.
This year physics also experienced a small drop in the Complete University Guide’s rankings, from 3rd to 5th.
This discrepancy might be explained by the methodology of the league tables: while the Guardian league tables take student satisfaction into account, the THE league tables do not – their score for ‘teaching’ is largely based off a survey sent out exclusively to academics.
In the Complete University Guide’s rankings, Imperial came bottom of all universities for physics in terms of student satisfaction.
Earlier this year, students in the Departments of Physics and Chemistry reported poor satisfaction rates in the annual National Student Survey (NSS), placing last and second-to-last in rankings of departments at Imperial. Physics did particularly poorly, with only 67% of students feeling satisfied with their course, and issues with feedback and marking highlighted.
Overall, the rankings are dominated with American universities, with 115 institutions in the top 500. Australia and China have climbed the rankings, with 23 entries each. Elsewhere, however, institutions in Germany, South Korea, and Canada have slipped down the rankings.
THE takes into account 13 performance indicators across five categories – the same system used for its overall world rankings. However, while the world rankings place a higher emphasis on teaching and research, the scores for physical sciences are more focussed on the number of citations an institution receives.