Victoria University has leapt to first place in the national research rankings, and become a leader in the field of science.
The 2012 Performance-Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation, published by the Tertiary Education Commission yesterday, shows it rose from fifth place in 2003 and fourth in 2006.
The rankings rate 27 tertiary education organisations, including eight universities, 10 institutes of technology and polytechnics, one wananga, and eight private training establishments.
Victoria was followed by Auckland University in second place, and Otago University in third.
Victoria's assistant vice- chancellor research, Professor Charles Daugherty, said it was a "wonderful day" for the Wellington university - an achievement made possible only with the help of all its staff, who spent hours putting together their research portfolios. It set out to improve its research ranking but was pleasantly surprised to have succeeded so well.
"You can't really aim to be No 1," Prof Daugherty said. "What we aimed to do was produce the best result that we could."
The top ranking would result in a funding increase that he said would "not be enormous", but it should also contribute to attracting the brightest local and foreign researchers to the capital city.
Not only were 70 per cent of its individual researchers now recognised as being of high quality internationally or nationally, up from 52 per cent, but Victoria ranked first or second in 24 subject areas. In 2006, it was first or second in only 11.
"To me, that says that it's not one bit of the institution, it's everybody understanding they need to commit to improvement and that's what happened," Prof Daugherty said.
Psychology and chemistry featured strongly in its top subjects, which was a significant change for Victoria.
"Ten to 15 years ago, Victoria was not thought of as a science university. In terms of science, we're right at the top of the game."
Its education research improved substantially too, from very low in the rankings to fourth.
"I'm sure our staff will be deeply heartened by this."
But despite its top overall ranking, the university will still be beaten by Auckland and Otago in terms of overall funding, because of their medical schools. Funding increases would "not be enormous", but "if we're lucky a million or two", he said.
Chancellor Ian McKinnon, who is also a Wellington city councillor, said the ranking was "tremendous in every which way".
"For Wellington, I think it means here is another institution within our city that is a leader in its particular field.
"In that position, it will assist in continuing to attract top staff and top students."
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade- Brown said the education sector was really important to the capital, and Victoria's top ranking was "another piece of good news that we can promote".
Participating institutions will have 25 working days to submit any complaints about the interim rankings to the commission, with the final report to be published in August.
THE FAB FOUR
Victoria University's top four research subjects:
Music, literary arts and other arts
Ecology, evolution and behaviour
Then comes: Biomedical science
HOW THEY RATED
1. Victoria University
2. University of Auckland
3. University of Otago
4. University of Canterbury
5. University of Waikato
6. Massey University
- The Dominion Post
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