According to the ARWU, out of schools in the United States, UNC is tied with Northwestern University at 20th. Of all public universities in the U.S., UNC ranked seventh on the list.
The ARWU evaluates six quantitative indicators, including the number of Nobel Prizes and Fields medals won among alumni and staff, the number of highly cited researchers at each institution, the number of articles published in “Journals of Nature and Science” and the per capita academic achievements of the universities, according to ShanghaiRanking.
The rankings are based on a scoring system of the six objective factors mentioned above. Of these factors, research output and quality of faculty count toward the majority of a university’s score, with each determining 40 percent.
The top university receives a score of 100, and the other institutions are presented as a percentage of the top score.
UNC’s overall score for 2020 was 37.6.
Since 2003, when the first ARWU was published, the University has generally increased its performance each year. In 2003, UNC was ranked 52nd. The University was previously ranked 33rd in 2019, and 30th in 2018.
Barbara Stephenson, the vice provost of global affairs, commended the University’s recent recognition by the ARWU in a statement via UNC Media Relations.
“I’m proud that Carolina has moved up three slots in the Academic Rankings of World Universities,” Stephenson said in the statement. “Our strong showing reflects excellent work done by talented faculty, staff and students.”
What does this mean to students?
UNC’s high-ranking status is a factor leading to enrollment, several UNC students said.
“I believe that Carolina is certainly one of the best public schools in the country, if not the best public school in the country, so I’m very glad to see UNC in the top five,” Erik Norloff, a first-year biology major and out-of-state student, said.
Avery Brannan, a sophomore political science and peace, war and defense double major, said the high quality of academics at UNC is one of the reasons why she decided to enroll as an out-of-state student.
Brannan said students who attend state schools normally do so in their home state, so there should be a good reason to attend in another state, like a high ranking.
Max Poteat, a first-year studying peace, war and defense, also appreciated UNC’s ranking this year.
“It is a true privilege to go to a university that has been recognized for its outstanding teaching and research programs,” Poteat said. “I’m lucky to be a Tar Heel.”
Yena Ismail, a sophomore studying biostatistics, said the recent commendation was especially impressive considering that UNC is a public university.
“Once you see rankings like this you start to realize that it's extremely difficult because you’re at a great institution of higher learning," Ismail said. "And it makes your successes mean even more, because once you start to achieve something, you’re not just achieving, you’re achieving at a really high level."
For her, the ranking lends UNC more prestige and credibility internationally.
“As an international student ... when you come and say UNC, it means virtually nothing,” Ismail said. “So when you come and say UNC is one of the top 30 universities in the world, it starts to gain you some respect, like you decided to move to a different continent and abandon your entire family — but maybe it’s for a good reason.”