Rankings show U of T enjoys broad public awareness

A recent ranking of universities’ “visibility” placed U of T fifth in the world when it comes to news reports, social media and online searches
student walk past the front gate of the University of Toronto

(photo by David Lee)

The University of Toronto is routinely ranked as one of the world’s top universities for research and teaching – and the public is taking notice.

Consistently ranked among the world’s top 25 universities in the most closely watched international rankings, there is growing evidence that U of T’s global reputation is expanding well beyond the realm of academia. For example, employers already consider U of T graduates among the most desirable hires in the world and the university recently earned the title of the most sustainable post-secondary institution on the planet.  

Now, the inaugural edition of American Caldwell’s Global University Visibility (GUV) Rankings, updated earlier this year, ranked U of T fifth in the world when it comes to public interest as measured by online searches, social media followers and web traffic, among other metrics. 

Moreover, U of T was the only public university – and the only university outside the United States – to place in the top five. The others were Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and Cornell University.

N. Alexander Kader, partner at D.C.-based American Caldwell, says the GUV rankings, first released in 2023, are meant to complement traditional university rankings – which tend to focus on academic metrics, including publications and citations in peer-reviewed journals – by capturing institutional recognition among the public at large. 

"[The visibility rankings] originated from a discussion of traditional university metrics of counting publications,” he says. “The challenge is not knowing how many people were seeing them or if they were available to the general public. Thus, we decided to see if visibility could be measured."

News mentions are the most heavily weighted metric in GUV’s calculations, followed by Google searches, says Kader. Social media followers and website traffic also factor into the visibility rankings, he adds, and American Caldwell tracks web references, the quantity of publicly available online information and video on YouTube.

Christine Szustaczek, U of T’s vice-president, communications, says GUV’s indicators of online interest likely favour both English speakers and large universities, but nevertheless suggest a growing number of people around the world want to know what’s happening at U of T. She adds that the more people learn, the more likely they are to become students, faculty, donors and industry partners.

“It shows that people around the world care about the University of Toronto, and that we matter because it proves that people are seeking information about us,” says Szustaczek. “[Our visibility] rests on the excellence of our teaching and research, the quality of our students and the opportunities they get at U of T, the accomplishments of our alumni and our collaborations and partnerships across the globe. These are the topics that pique the public’s curiosity and earn their interest.”

Szustaczek notes that U of T’s pronounced position in the public’s consciousness is also a testament to the people across U of T who share these achievements with audiences around the world. 

“Visibility is important, because it helps audiences form a positive opinion of the university, based on their knowledge of what makes us unique,” she says. “Reputation is a perceptual construct – it's something that lives in other people’s hearts and minds. By extension, it follows that an organization can’t have a reputation if they’re not visible. “By sharing our impact broadly and proudly with the world – we’re giving others an opportunity to get to know us, to partner with us and support us.”


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