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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

University of Ljubljana and the Shanghai Ranking

By: Dr Štefan Šumah

The Shanghai ranking is a ranking of world universities based on academic criteria, calculated annually since 2003 using a special formula. The academic criteria used to calculate the index for each university include the number of alumni who have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of highly cited researchers in 21 categories, the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science, the value of the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index, and the academic performance per capita of the university. As the oldest ranking of world universities using multiple criteria, the Shanghai ranking is among the most influential such rankings and serves as a benchmark for the quality of universities. The University of Ljubljana is ranked somewhere between 600th and 700th place. It has been declining in the rankings over the years (it was once among the top 500).

Perhaps, given that there are probably more than 10,000 universities worldwide, this ranking is not so bad. However, it is notable that there are many universities from the third world ranked higher. It is not surprising that the universities of Zagreb and Belgrade are ahead, but it is somewhat disheartening that many Turkish, Arab, and even African universities are ranked higher.

The university consists of several faculties, and some are ranked quite high on the Shanghai ranking, among the top 200 in their field (mathematics, agriculture, veterinary medicine), some among the top 300 (physics, mechanical engineering, food technology). However, what stands out is that these are primarily and exclusively natural science and technical faculties. There is no mention of humanities, social sciences, law, or economics. For natural science and technical faculties, these are still based on a humanistic culture, a collection of knowledge and ideas that are organised, hierarchically structured, and still demand a certain discipline from students, with a skeleton built from basic subjects and main themes. On the other hand, social sciences and humanities faculties are transitioning (or have already transitioned) to a mosaic culture, where knowledge is constructed from separate parts, connected by entirely random relationships of proximity at the moment of acquiring it through harmony or association of ideas, with knowledge being shaped more by mass communication means than by the educational system itself. Mosaic culture acts as a factory of subjects, producing a new kind of person, a person of the masses, ideal for manipulation because they cannot assemble a holistic picture, but instead replace it with a mosaic of separate, unrelated facts, leading to a decrease in critical thinking abilities. Mosaic culture in conjunction with cultural Marxism is indeed a deadly combination. This explains the disparity in success among different faculties within the university.

To have a renowned university in Slovenia, the University of Ljubljana would need to split into two universities: a natural science-technical one and another covering other fields. Then we could proudly say that we have a university among the top 300 in the world. The size of the university in this regard does not matter; even relatively small universities can be ranked very high on the Shanghai list (e.g., Rockefeller University or Karolinska Institute, both narrowly specialised with relatively few faculties).

However, the loud (and academically significantly less successful) humanists and social scientists have the main voice in politics and shape public opinion, as if they alone are called to explain the state of the country and lead the nation. Therefore, I miss the more frequent expression of natural science and technical intelligence, which is actually more capable of critical thinking and forming opinions based on facts. Numbers do not lie, especially if they are correctly understood and explained. Of course, one can also manipulate numbers (in combination with mosaic culture and cultural Marxism) to create some kind of post-truth. Even such a truth that sees fascism in the word “family” (the word family actually has many symbols and symbolic messages encoded in it, all of which carry a positive note), while the University of Ljubljana continues to sink lower on the Shanghai ranking.

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