Queen’s needs to stop defending its academic prowess through privileged metrics

Credit: 
Supplied by Asbah Ahmad

When I woke up on April 21 and checked Instagram, every account affiliated with Queen’s was running one eye-grabbing headline: “Queen’s ranks first in Canada and fifth in the world in global impact rankings.” 

I didn’t even read up to the “global impacts” part of the headline—I was just shocked we beat out schools like Cambridge and Princeton. After all, last fall, Principal Patrick Deane referred to Queen’s global academic rankings as “depressing.” 

Immediately, I investigated the background of the rankings we topped. The Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, run by the “esteemedTHE publication, is a global ranking of universities based on their advancement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Within minutes, I found glaring issues with the ranking’s methodology. 

Furthermore, how Queen’s advertised its rankings results seemed dodgy, peculiar, and even dishonest during the peak of the 2025 admissions cycle.

THE evaluates university performance on 17 SDGs—broad metrics which are subdivided into categories targeting different issues within the SDG. Each of these smaller subcategories accounts for a certain percentage of a university’s performance in a given SDG. The SDGs range from topics like “quality education” to “clean water and sanitation.” 

Concerningly, Queen’s has serious problems which are not fully accounted for in the metrics—making the rankings less credible.

For example, the “gender equality” metric measures the extent to which women are systematically integrated into the university community. 15.4 per cent of the section’s score focuses on senior women academics. 

However, Queen’s has shown time and again its hostility against these academics. A good example is professor Adèle Mercier’s fight against the university for alleged gender discrimination. 

Worst of all, this ranking lacks an intersectional approach. 

The “zero hunger” metric assesses a school’s tendency to research hunger and instill scholars with relevant knowledge on the subject. But how relevant is this to students attending the university? 

Meanwhile, Queen’s has systematically gutted the funding to on-campus food banks as a result of the disastrous Student Choice Initiative (SCI). Only 4.8 per cent of the “zero hunger” metric accounts for students’ access to food banks. 

What a shame. 

Based on an intersectional approach, access to food and campus resource centres, particularly relating to sexual assault and reproductive health, are crucial to student well-being. 

THE makes no mention of food insecurity with respect to the “good health and well-being” metric. Concomitantly, only 7 per cent of the SDG concerns access to sexual and reproductive care, overshadowed by “smoke-free policy,” which constitutes 8 per cent of the metric. 

Queen’s THE Impact Rankings score was showcased with flashy headlines that drew equivalence to the THE World University Rankings. This was a stunt, a band-aid to a larger problem. 

Queen’s attempts to increase global rankings in the midst of an epic fall in academic rankings should result in better collaboration with the amazing faculty and researchers on campus. These people are the key to increasing rankings through student satisfaction, output and quality of research, and internationalization efforts.

Queen’s, please don’t mislead current and future students. And don’t use privileged metrics to keep important shortcomings from view.  

Asbah is a second-year Biology student and one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. 

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