Count your saints: a new ranking criterion?

By John O’Leary, executive member of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board


University vice-chancellors and presidents have put forward all sorts of measures that would improve their institution’s standing in rankings – from academic prizes to community projects and student exchanges. But the rector of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), in Manila, came up with a truly unique proposal at the QS-APPLE conference, which his institution hosted.

Perhaps only half jokingly, he suggested that the number of saints produced by a university should be adopted as a measure in the QS World University Rankings®. Not surprisingly, UST, the largest single-campus Catholic university in the world and the oldest university in Asia, would do extremely well in the canonisation table.

Father Rolando De la Rosa said the university had 30 saints to its name, as well as several presidents and prime ministers of the Philippines – “the better ones,” according to Fr De la Rosa. Further research suggests that most universities are shamefully ignorant of their tally of saints, if indeed they have any, possibly because they had not expected them to become an indicator in rankings. No doubt, tenuous links to long-forgotten saints will soon be discovered at universities all around the world if Fr De la Rosa’s idea catches on.

Oxford should do well, laying claim to at least a dozen saints and martyrs, including Thomas of Hereford, who was Chancellor of the university in the 13th century, when he was said to have “applied firm discipline and confiscated weapons”, as well as being generous to poor students. But can any university rival UST?

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