Don't rely on ranking

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong people love brand-names - even when it comes to choosing universities.

But a university coming top of the rankings and staying there, that could lead to a negative impact on the quality of education. To rank highly, academics have to do research, which means they spend less time with students.

Also, some polls are discipline-oriented, mainly focusing on the outcome of a particular subject.

What's more, universities strong in disciplines such as science and engineering - as opposed to humanities and social sciences - tend to rank more highly as they are more active in research.

Ranking exercises can be confusing, too. For example, the recent surveys by QS Intelligence Unit and Times Higher Education on the world's top universities with a history of 50 years or less present contrasting results.

Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) led the QS poll of the top 50 such institutions, ahead of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

In the poll of the top 100 such colleges, however, CUHK trailed behind HKUST, which came third after Switzerland's ?cole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne.

As with other personal choices, choosing a university requires an understanding of one's likes and dislikes. Making decisions based on popular trends is a mistake.

More important than a university's ranking is how well its set-up matches your personality and needs - after all, you'll be there for three or four years.