In its ranking of the top global universities, US News and World Report ranks Virginia Commonwealth University in the top 20% in the world and 439th out of 2,165 public and private institutions in the United States and more than 90 other countries.
The ranking is based on 13 indicators that measure universities’ academic research performance and their global and regional reputation. Several specific programs at VCU rank particularly highly in the global rankings, including Gastroenterology and Hepatology (#17), Surgery (#86), Cardiovascular Systems (#132), Psychiatry and Psychology (#138) , Neuroscience and Behavior (No. 193) and Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging (No. 195).
Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D., Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at VCU, said the ranking recognizes the dynamism of VCU’s research enterprise, VCU’s influence, and the academic and scholarly excellence of its faculty.
Why is it important for the VCU to be among the best universities in the world?
Well, for several reasons. First, as we seek to expand our international footprint, whether through research collaborations with faculties and universities from around the world, or through our degree opportunities to increase international student enrollment at VCU, ranking among the top universities in the world is very important. Prestige is very important. Prestige matters.
And just to give you an idea of why I was recently part of a group from VCU that visited Dubai, UAE and India where we met with institutional leaders, faculty, staff and students to explore possible international partnerships explore. In these countries and others that VCU members have recently visited, we have heard loud and clear that these universities and parents from abroad want to send their students to the USA, but they want to send them to universities that are very prestigious and high are ranked.
So that’s #1. Additionally, the need to enhance our global reputation is very important to attract and retain talented students, trainees, as well as world-class faculty. Finally, improving our ranking is also key to improving our domestic reputation. It shows that our faculty, postdocs, staff and students are committed to advancing research that matters and that their work is making an impact that is recognized by peers around the world.
These rankings are different from US News & World Report’s undergraduate rankings, right? What should people take away most from this recognition?
There are two types of US news rankings. For example, we were recently ranked among the top 30 public universities for innovation. So that’s very good too.
But the Undergraduate US News rankings are the main thing that students and parents look for when choosing a university. We know that the first thing someone does when hearing about a university is to google it and see where it ranks in the US News & World Report. Like it or not, that’s what people do. But that’s the undergraduate ranking. So there we rank sixth among our Virginia colleagues.
But in this global ranking, again from US News, we rank #3 in Virginia. The reason it’s different is because it’s a different formula. Various things are counted here. In these world rankings, the most important – actually only – element that makes up the algorithm, everything revolves around research results, scientific excellence, citations of the research your faculty conducts, international collaborations, how many books your faculty has written, many conferences that they attend, and the reputation of the research in the international community.
So these rankings are all about research excellence and prestige in relation to the research we do.
This ranking [arrives] break one research funding record after another within the framework of the VCU. We are an R1 university, which means we are among the 146 universities in the United States ranked for very high research activity. But this year, we also just broke an all-time record of more than $405 million in sponsored research. We currently rank 58th among public universities in the US for federally funded research spending, according to the National Science Foundation, and we’re on track to climb even higher.
We’re rising very, very quickly in the prestige and reputation of research. And this international ranking is a testament to the impact and prestige and importance of the research conducted by the VCU faculty.
Another thing that goes into the formula for this ranking is how many of the faculties are in the top 1% of the world’s most-cited scientists.
Stanford University annually publishes a list of all researchers from around the world who are in the top 2% most cited researchers, both current and throughout their careers. It turns out we have over 200 VCU faculties on this list. It’s really impressive.
What’s really important to me here is that this particular ranking highlights the dynamism of our research company, the impact we are making, and the scientific and scholarly excellence of our faculty.
And I hope that this ranking will also help our undergraduate rankings. The more we spread the stories about how great the VCU is in terms of the research we’re doing, it will unintentionally have a positive impact on what we’re trying to do on the undergraduate rankings as well.
Several VCU programs – such as Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Surgery, Clinical Medicine, Psychiatry and Psychology – are of particular importance worldwide. What do you notice most about it?
Well, first off, the one big conclusion, which in turn correlates to our overall research spending, is that if you look at our sponsored research, a large chunk — the majority — comes from our healthcare system. And at most universities that have a health care system, especially with a medical school, that’s also true simply because the budget of the National Institutes of Health is so much larger than the research budgets of other federal agencies like the NSF, the Departments of Energy, Education and so forth. So if you do research in health, you have access to so much more funding. In addition, medical schools associated with healthcare systems can conduct clinical trials. So overall, more funding there means that our faculty is very well supported to award grants and publish more articles to present their research. It’s no coincidence, the two are correlated.
And I think that the specific programs that are placed very well, I think that shows that we have some researchers in our healthcare system that are really, really at the top level of the world. There is no doubt about it. For example, Dr. Ken Kendler, VCU’s most-cited researcher, ranked 66th overall career and is the second most-cited psychiatrist in the world and first in the neurology/neurosurgery subfield.
Likewise, the director of the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, Dr. Arun Sanyal, another of our world leading researchers when it comes to citations. and dr Todd Stravitz, whose donation helped found the institute, is also on the Stanford list.
With that in mind, I met a graduate of our College of Engineering in Abu Dhabi on my recent trip to Dubai. We drove from Dubai to Abu Dhabi to have lunch with him. And he told me this story about how his wife’s father had problems with liver cancer. He told us they had him treated in England and they asked the doctors: Who is the best name in the world when it comes to liver disease? And they told him that there is this guy called Arun Sanyal at VCU. So it’s that kind of influence. And it’s not just Ken and Arun, there are several others at VCU that are at this level.
How do you think the VCU will accelerate its research momentum?
An exciting part about this is that VCU President Michael Rao has tasked our university with surpassing half a billion dollars in sponsored research. While we’ve gone from $310 million in 2019 to $405 million now, getting those extra hundreds of new research grants is going to be a lot harder. But we have an opportunity to get there by investing strategically and expanding the connections between all the great work that’s happening on the health campus with the rest of VCU. There is tremendous opportunity for synergy between engineering, physics, arts, chemistry and biology, among others, with the School of Medicine and other health sciences. However, this will not happen organically and will require strategic investment, a commitment to knowledge creation and transformative innovation through leadership, focus and a science-based team approach that integrates students and faculty across disciplines.
On the one hand, this specific ranking underlines the excellence of our healthcare system. On the other hand, it shows us a way to move to the next level as a university as ONE VCU overall, and that we can do this by better building research connections in the fields of health sciences, STEM, social sciences, arts and humanities between our Locations here and in Doha, Qatar.
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