NZ universities sliding down world league

New Zealand universities are slipping down world ratings, but the University of Auckland is seeing signs of hope in the fine print of rival rating agency scores.

Rival QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings score New Zealand poorly.

On the QS rankings, no New Zealand university is in the top 50 world universities; Australia has five in the top 50.

Only Auckland University features on the Reputation Rankings, coming in at 145, or sixth of the eight universities rated in Australia and New Zealand.

The ranking services compete against each other and drip-feed their results to the media.

Auckland University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, says they will struggle "to maintain parity with our international peers if the under-investment in New Zealand universities continues".

"New Zealand's direct public investment in tertiary institutions is 58 per cent out of the total expenditure on tertiary education; this compares with an OECD average of 81 per cent, and just under 70 per cent in Australia for tertiary institutions.

"As other countries increase their per student expenditure, the gap is only going to widen."

The overall ratings relate to 2010, but the university is taking some comfort from QS's subject rankings for this year, which are used to create an overall rating.

Auckland University's top ranking in the latest 2011 data was in modern languages, where it came in at 23rd.

In linguistics, Auckland is at 31 and  43rd for philosophy.

In geography and area studies, Auckland is 30, and 33rd in history.

In mathematics Auckland came 30th, environmental science 34th equal and in chemistry 43rd equal.

Earlier QS placed Auckland 27th in psychology, 39th in both medicine and biological sciences, 40th in computer science and information systems and 55th in engineering and technology.

The QS Rankings, which have been run since 2005, are more heavily weighted towards academic and employer reputation rather than research citations.

Top-performing universities were voted as having a strong reputation among both academics and employers.

Auckland University in the 2010 year came in at the 68th university, down from 61 a year previously.

In 2007 it was 50th - its highest ever rating.

Other New Zealand universities are well down.

The University of Otago is 135th, continuing a slide which in 2005 had it at 79th.

Canterbury last year came in at 189, largely unchanged over the last four years but a big improvement on the 333rd placing in 2005.

Victoria University in Wellington was 225th, a slight climb over its position in the last five years.

Massey University of Palmerston North and Auckland has slid dramatically and is now at 302 while Waikato languishes at 316.

The year 2010's top university, for the first time, is the University of Cambridge.

Harvard, for the first time, lost its premier status to come in second, followed by Yale, University College London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Australian National University was 20th in the world, while the University of Sydney held steady at 37th followed by the University of Melbourne which has slide over the five years.

The University of Queensland was on 43 and the University of New South Wales was 46th.

The Times Reputation Ratings are based on a global survey of academic opinion with 13,000 academics from 131 involved.

A key feature of the survey was the opportunity for narrow disciplinary focus: respondents could highlight what they believed to be the strongest universities, regionally and globally, in their specific fields, selecting from hundreds of disciplines and from more than 6000 academic institutions.

The number one ranked institution, Harvard University, was selected most often.

The scores of all the other institutions in the table are expressed as a percentage of Harvard's score, set at 100.

Auckland University, the only one rated, had a world rank at 145 and an overall score of 51.8.