According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities released by Shanghai University on August 15th, the University of Belgrade is among the top 500 universities in the world. This achievement means that the largest and oldest university in Serbia has joined the University of Zagreb, which appeared on the list for the first time last year.
The Shanghai list is an informal but prestigious guide to the world’s best universities. The top 500 schools are said to account for the top 2 percent of universities in the world.
The new rankings have stirred the pride of many in the academic community in Serbia, and left many curious about the improvements behind the dramatic increase in the university’s rankings.
According to Marjan Nikolic, spokesman for the University of Belgrade, the success can be partially attributed to an increase in published scientific research coming out of the university during the last several years.
“A significantly higher number of published scientific papers are certainly one of the parameters which enabled University of Belgrade to be ranked amongst the 500 best universities,” he told. “The fact that compared to 2006, the number of published scientific papers increased by 2.5 percent only reaffirms this conclusion.”
Others agree that scientific research played an important role in helping the university to make the list, but believe that an expansion of the scientific publications included in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science research database, from which the Shanghai rankings draws much of its ranking criteria, has increased the visibility of Serbian scientific research.
Another factor, according to Jelena Brankovic, a researcher from the Centre for Education Policy in Belgrade, involved an increase in the number of publications listing University of Belgrade as an affiliation, rather than a researcher’s specific faculty or institute.
“The university’s faculties, as well as institutes, are independent legal entities and many researchers when publishing would list their faculty as their affiliation, and not the University of Belgrade,” she told.
“University leadership became aware of that and saw it as a problem, because the actual research output, in bibliographic terms, was assumed bigger than what official figures suggested. And the difference was far from negligible. So they needed to find a way to make people list the University of Belgrade as their affiliation, and both the ministry and the university put a lot of effort into this.”
Brankovic also believes the same process led to the University of Zagreb being included on the Shanghai list for the first time last year. “It’s about getting local science visible internationally, in this case in Thomson Reuters databases, and about getting scholars to list a single affiliation, not dozens of institutes within one institution,” she said.
Students, meanwhile, say they feel a sense of pride about the new rankings, and hope the university continues to enhance its prestige internationally.
Nikola Jovanovic, 23, a student at the university’s Faculty of Law told, “I’m proud that our university staff is working a lot to get international recognition for our diplomas. But I would still like them to implement more top international standards in our facilities.”
Nikolic also told that the new rankings will reflect the quality of the diplomas awarded students, and perhaps even enhance their employability upon graduation.
“This ranking means a lot because the diploma of the university which is on this list is highly ranked in the international academic community, as well as on the international labour market. To be a part of the Shanghai list allows future scientific development of our academic staff and students.”