On Wednesday 12 I learned that according to ‘QS World University Rankings 2012-2013’, the university I work for, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, is the best in Spain, followed by the Universitat de Barcelona. It is also number 176 in the list of the top 200 in the world (QS considers 2,500 universities in total, 700 for the ‘long list’). The top 10 are, what a surprise: MIT, Cambridge, Harvard, University College London, Oxford, Imperial College London, Yale, University of Chicago, Princeton and California Institute of Technology. Yes, all English-speaking centres. Yes, the richest ones. Yes, private.

Apparently, this ranking is based on the academic reputation of each institution (40%), capacity to generate employment (10%), the ratio student/teacher (20%), citation volume (20%), internationalization (5%) and (number?) of foreign students (5%). UAB occupies place 105 by academic reputation, but, hei, it climbs up to 92 if we consider the Humanities, which rank above Social Sciences (95), Natural Sciences (106), Medicine and Life Sciences (144), and Technology and Engineering (203). Clearly, we need to start pulling rank… Barcelona, by the way, is the 11th favourite city of students around the world (no wonder, ask Erasmus students about our ‘academic’ reputation).

On the same day, 12, the course begins and I start my battle with the real conditions that QS does not reflect: a sweltering 30º in class at 15:00 and no air conditioning. This makes me go mad with anxiety about the possible sweat stains on my dark skirt and… the survival rate of my new students, desperately fanning themselves with their class notes. Poor things, they behave so nicely!! There are 64, more to come when the Erasmus enrol –also, I see some Chinese students not on my class list yet. This means that not all have access to my Moodle virtual classroom, and that many won’t have the books I’ll start discussing next week (and that were announced last July). I complain (as usual) to the corresponding Vice-Dean about the appalling heat (it was the appalling smell last year) and I’m told we need to put up with the building as it is, they’re doing what they can, implicitly in this time of crisis. And they measure the temperature now and then. Not all the official lists, by the way, are available because the computer system has decided of its own to boycott our Department.

If we’re 176, and I’ll believe that, the QS rating system is either not working properly or working perfectly and revealing much about universities around the world. I feel proud to contribute, if only modestly, to the UAB’s top Spanish ranking and, in particular, that of the Humanities section in the world (92!!??). Today, better than ever before, I can truly say that the effort takes much sweat of (and off) my brow (and other bodily parts I’d rather not mention). Our lovely Mediterranean shores can be an enticement for many Erasmus students but they have a clear downside.

This, surely, is not noticed at MIT not only because they’re further north but also because, my guess, they needn’t put up with the building… If despite all this, and much more I’m narrating in this blog, we’re number 176 in the world this is indeed cause for celebration!! Good for us!