Fall rankings spotlight Virginia Tech’s emphasis on research
Several higher education organizations listed the university among the top universities in the nation and the world in the areas of research, sustainability, and international faculty.
A strong emphasis on research, a robust commitment to sustainability, and a large international presence among its faculty served as common themes in Virginia Tech’s showing in various national and global rankings this fall.
The university wrapped up the calendar year by being ranked in a tie for No. 265 out of 2,000 universities listed in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Global Universities rankings. The list featured institutions from 95 countries.
The publication used 13 ranking factors and focused on institutions’ research performance, including both global and regional reputation indicators. The rating was the latest strong showing by the university, which was listed at No. 16 among land-grant universities in The Times Higher Education (T.H.E.) World University Rankings that came out in early October. Times Higher Education judges research excellence on a global scale.
In the QS World University Rankings released in September, Virginia Tech’s research prowess enabled it to be ranked among the top 26 percent of world institutions. QS assesses universities with metrics related to research and teaching quality, international reputation, and student employability.
“Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for our research, scholarship, and creative activities,” said Dan Sui, senior vice president for research and innovation. “Virginia Tech’s strength and reputation as a strong R1 [classification for universities with high research activity] research university contributes significantly to preparing our students for their future careers. By continuing to focus our research and scholarship, especially in areas where the latest discoveries can make the biggest difference in the human condition, we will further elevate our impact.”
In the U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities list, three of Virginia Tech’s subject areas ranked in the top 100 — electrical and electronic engineering (tie No. 50); water resources (No. 94), and general engineering (tie No. 97). In addition, four other subject areas ranked in the top 150: computer science (tie No. 114); plant and animal science (No. 124); mechanical engineering (tie No. 134); and geosciences (tie No. 141).
Virginia Tech’s research expenditures have increased by 9 percent, approaching $600 million for fiscal year 2022, according to preliminary data. University initiatives such as the Research Frontiers (health, security, artificial intelligence, and quantum) enable innovative progress by forging new and enhancing existing partnerships with collaborators and sponsors.
Some of the university’s research-related milestones over the past year included:
- Health frontier: A $90 million, 139,000-square-foot expansion to the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute
- Security frontier: The formation of the National Security Institute
- Artificial intelligence frontier: The partnership between Virginia Tech and Amazon to advance the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning through machine learning-focused research
- Quantum frontier: The launch of the Center for Quantum Information Science and Engineering
In the area of sustainability, Virginia Tech continues to receive national acclaim. This past May, the T.H.E. Impact Rankings rated the university No. 98 out of more than 1,400 universities worldwide. These rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The T.H.E. Impact Rankings use calibrated indicators to compare universities across four areas: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching.
Virginia Tech is tracking progress toward achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals across three categories: research, outreach, and stewardship. That progress can be viewed online.
In the latest QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2023 released in November, Virginia Tech was rated in the 201-250 range out of 700 institutions rated. This organization splits its rankings among environmental sustainability measures, such as sustainable institutions, sustainability education, and sustainability research, and social impact measures, including equality, knowledge exchange, educational impact, employability and opportunities, and quality of life.
Virginia Tech scored well in sustainable research, ranking No. 71, and in quality of life, coming in at No. 158.
As an institution, Virginia Tech officials remain committed to the Climate Action Commitment, which serves as the university’s guiding framework around sustainability and energy efficiency in campus operations, facilities, curriculum, and research. They recently told the Board of Visitors that they are progressing toward the university becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
“Creating and supporting actionable steps that achieve Virginia Tech’s Climate Action Commitment goals are critical for the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities,” said Mary-Ann Ibeziako, assistant vice president for infrastructure. “This year, we’ve made significant progress toward achieving a carbon neutral Blacksburg campus by 2030. … To address the challenge of meeting the thermal energy demand of the Blacksburg campus in a climate-friendly way, the division has initiated a utilities master planning process. The plan will complement the campus master plan and guide the development and maintenance of university infrastructure to be conducive toward carbon neutrality.”
In addition to addressing sustainability through facility initiatives, Virginia Tech continues to address sustainability through research-based curricula, including that which has received assistance from grants. An example is the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which received an $80 million grant to help farmers implement climate-smart practices.
Nearly all individual colleges at Virginia Tech have courses devoted specifically to sustainability, and the university continues to promote its Pathways to sustainability minor. Pathways minors are thematic, transdisciplinary programs that allow students to examine important topics from a variety of perspectives.
“At Virginia Tech, we're doing many things to help — and we can do more,” said Tim Baird, associate professor in the Department of Geography and lead faculty member for the Pathways to sustainability minor. “We can show students that every single discipline, every field, every major, is needed to address climate change, and we can inspire them to strive for a more sustainable world. In the Pathways to sustainability minor, these are our goals — to champion diversity, to build community and to inspire."
The QS World University Rankings not only spotlighted Virginia Tech’s research, but specifically highlighted international research and gave the university top marks in the category of international faculty. The school rated No. 267 in the world in the International Faculty indicator – a measure that shows the attractiveness of the university to international faculty members.
The school has 717 among its 2,759 total faculty members, or 26 percent. The global median was just 8.6 per 100.
“Virginia Tech is a better place to work and grow as colleagues because our campus welcomes faculty and staff from foreign lands who grace our classrooms, labs, sports fields, residence halls, gyms, and offices,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president of outreach and international affairs. “The diversity of perspectives, world views, and cultural and linguistic differences combined with the realization that there are multiple ways to get things accomplished makes Virginia Tech a richer institution. The warmth and hospitality of the people of Southwest Virginia have allowed more than 700 international faculty members to call Virginia Tech and the commonwealth home.”
For those interested, a complete listing of Virginia Tech’s worldwide and national rankings from various publications and other outlets can be found online.