Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is University Ranking Watch afraid of El Naschie?

This is a follow-up to The Alexandria University saga continues.

A message substantially similar to the following one has apparently been disallowed by Richard Holmes on this post at his blog University Ranking Watch. I say "substantially similar" because I didn't save a copy of my comment. It never occurred to me that he might reject it.

This is an approximation of what I tried to post there:

As I said in my previous comment, Richard should have whatever moderation policy he sees fit. But I do want to make clear that his new stated policy

I will publish any comment providing it does not contain negative general comments about the character of a specific individual.

is in my opinion dysfunctional in a blog like his, which purports to uncover the reasons for anomalously high rankings like Alexandria University's. Look at Richard beginning his drill-down:

Some further investigation showed that while Alexandria’s citation record is less than stellar in all respects there is precisely one discipline, or subdiscipline or even subsubdiscipline, where it does very well. Looking at the disciplines one by one, I found that there is one where Alexandria does seem to have an advantage, namely mathematical physics.

And yet when the person within the subsubdiscipline is found, Richard is paralyzed by emotions of tact and delicacy. Suddenly the culprit cannot be criticized. Richard is like a surgeon overcome with squeamishness at the thought of operating.

A commenter on El Naschie Watch notes that Richard is based in Malaysia, which may have even more draconian libel laws than England. And I know that the litigious Egyptian crackpot has more influence in that Muslim country than he does in the West. So Richard may be worried about getting sued, and that worry may be rational.

UPDATE. Shrink called my attention to Richard Holmes's latest post, Missing the Point. He writes about Alexandria University's official announcement concerning their Times Higher Education rank.

It's interesting to see what they do and don't say. Here's Alexandria University's administration:


Alexandria University ranked147 in the World University Ranking 2010-2011 of Times Higher Education-THE
World University Ranking of Times Higher Education published last Thursday determined Alexandria University as number 147 of top 200 world universities with overall ranking score of 51.6; teaching – learning environment 29.5%, international mix – staff and students 19.3, industry income – innovation 36, research – volume, income and reputation 28, and citation – research influence 99.8.

The President of Alexandria University, Prof. Hind Hanafy said that the University came second in Africa region rank after Cape Town University and the only Arab university in the World University Ranking.

The President explained that Alexandria University has adopted a plan based on the criteria of selection of Times Higher Education Ranking THE, Shanghai University Ranking and Spanish Webometrics. The University has created a website following criteria of selection in world university ranking, organized a number of public lectures to educate members of the faculty on selection criteria, emphasized the importance of publishing their research in international journals with high impact and increase the rate of progress of research projects and interest in patents. Alexandria University has encouraged researchers by applying bonuses for international publishing and paying the expenses of publishing researches and patent inventions, full supported attendance of international conferences, and developed new standards for University Awards. Alexandria University has developed branches in Warab district in South Sudan and N’Djamena in Chad, in addition to the academic supervision of Beirut Arab University, Lebanon. Furthermore, the Faculty of Nursing, Alexandria University was approved by the National Authority for Quality Assurance and Accreditation of Education as the first accredited Faculty of Nursing in Egypt and the second faculty in the Egyptian universities.

Hamdan Award of Dubai was given to the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University as the best medical school in the Arab world. The Award came in recognition of the Faculty’s major efforts in all areas of medical and educational services. Prof. Hind Hanafy explained that the Faculty of Medicine is one of the oldest faculties of Alexandria University, founded in August 1942, featuring a leading role in addressing the future challenges of the dire need to train future doctors.

Times Higher Education – THE is a reputable world university ranking since 2004 in association with Thomson Reuters. . A distinctive feature of this system is its use of peer review derived from 50 world expertise in the field of education. Other criteria which this system uses include international staff and student numbers, citations data , and faculty/student ratio.

And here's Richard Holmes of University Ranking Watch:

Missing the Point

One of the most depressing things about university rankings is that whenever rankers make an error or use inappropraiate methodologies to push a un iversity up the table, administrators produce detailed justifications of their ascent usually avoiding the real reason. Here the head of Alexandria University explains why her university is in the top 200 without mentioning the real reasons, namely the deficiencies of the citation indicator.

Alexandria's administration congratulates itself for having "encouraged researchers by applying bonuses for international publishing" etc. etc. University Ranking Watch, "missing the point" itself, hilariously blames "the deficiencies of the citation indicator". No one mentions El Naschie, the elephant in the room, defecating in the punch bowl.

There is another interesting omission from the Alexandria University announcement -- more interesting and more subtle than not mentioning El Naschie. No mention is made of Alexandria University's 4th place finish for research impact! Perhaps they are not proud of it.

Related posts:

Translate English to Arabic
محمد النشائى El Naschie Watch محمد النشائي El Naschie News محمد النشائى محمد النشائي All El Naschie All The Time محمد النشائى


  1. Richard Holmes, please feel free to comment here. This blog is unmoderated except for cases of truly egregious comment abuse.

  2. El Naschie's Rosa Al-Youssef column is up for Thursday, September 23. Road safety. Original Arabic or Google's English translation.

    El Naschie always expresses admiration for Mubarak, but today he's just as enthusiastic about Barack Obama. He says that Obama's failure to accomplish much in the Middle East is due to his being after all the President of the US, and not of a Middle East country. He concludes with a joke about Obama being a white president in the Black House, which I don't get.

    El Naschie's Rosa Al-Youssef column is up for Friday, September 24. Elixir of happiness. Original Arabic or Google's English translation. El Naschie talks about heights of happiness (for example at the sinking of the Israeli ship Eilat) and depths of despair (for example at the death of President Gamal Abdel Nasser). This sets the stage for presenting his happiest moment:

    "Indeed, for someone who works in scientific research it is not surprising that scientific victories play a major role in raising the morale and renewing energy and restoring self confidence... I could not forget the day that I realized where I had discovered something no person before me had discovered, and I was able for the first time in the history of science, to determine the number of dimensions of time and space, and the fundamental building blocks of the development of physics."

    There is no Saturday column, but he's continuing on Sunday, which is good, because this is the first interesting column since the series about his Jewish teachers.

  3. Jason, I wonder if there is more to the ranking issue than just El Naschie citation. I mean to get 19.3 on international staff and students is quite a joke. In five years, I only met/knew/heard of one Palestinian student, who may not even be considered as international (sometimes Palestinians are officially treated as Egyptians). I've never heard of any international staff. I wonder how this could happen when the language of instruction in most faculties is Arabic. To get 29.5 on learning environment is even more absurd. I don't want to get started on that one.

    Don't get me wrong. I do love my original university and I hope it gets better in ranking. I know that it deserves much better status. But the bottom line is, this isn't the case now. And the ranking seems to me completely fake !

  4. Interesting that those may be problem areas, Hossam. Richard Holmes might want to look into it. But then again maybe not, considering how he avoids turning over the last stone in the mathematical physics subsubdiscipline.

    The statistics that went into the THE ratings were provided by each participating university using forms supplied by THE. So if one area seems inflated, the other areas should be checked too.

  5. I am wondering if any of you had a chance to view the comments on this article:

    I also had contacted THE and urged them to retract their ranking and investigate this matter further in order to protect the parents from wasting their money and effort into inflated institutes. I heard nothing back from them.


  6. A Voltaire, thank you for pointing to those excellent and hilarious comments. I will blog it.

  7. Jason, in my letter to them, I included your blog. I copied and pasted the entire letter in my blog which -by the way- you inspired me to create today:

    So - thank you!


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  9. Shit this post is still going! ha