It’s not any old colonist though: You will have to go back a few hundred years to remember when Britain actually was the colonial power, relative to the United States of America. Folks with rather shorter memories will be forgiven for thinking it was always the other way round. Anyway, the news is that for the first time since the inception of the listing 7 years ago, Cambridge Uni has overtaken Harvard Uni in the league tables prepared by QS World University Rankings.
There are a number of ways to rank universities, of course, and this is just one… but on any listing the list of the top dozen is probably not going to change very much. The quality was always going to follow the money.
Does this slide betoken other things? A change in educational batons in the spirit of the much-hyped and imminent Chinese Economic Overtake? Don’t hold your breath: the UK victory is only token: 13 out of the top 20 on this list of 200 top unis are still solidly American institutions, compared with only 3 British. Not surprisingly the list is very much a playground of the First World.
On another list, in another playground, the league of the top universities in Africa is dominated by a single country. Go to the head of the class. South African universities (led by University of Cape Town) claim 14 of the top 20 spots in Africa. Yet the African Top Dog Uni is only 397th in the world and the University of Zululand, Africa’s numero 20, is actually number 3724 in the world. Of course this list (more than the first) is a purer exercise in the still shamanic science of webometrics… but for a university in 2010, internet imbecility is as bad a crime as any.
All of which adumbrates the awkward reality that knowledge is no democracy. Never was. Never will be.