The G-Factor International University Ranking


What is the G-Factor?

The G-factor International University Ranking measures the importance of universities as a function of the number of links to their websites from the websites of other leading international universities. The G-Factor is based on the following premises:
  1. Universities are in the business of creating and disseminating knowledge.
  2. Universities are prolific sources of web content.
  3. The truism that "an organization becomes its website" really is true for universities (or at least the totality of the web content of a university is more than a reflection of the total embedded knowledge of the university - it increasingly IS the the embedded knowledge of the university).
  4. "If it's not on Google is doesn't exist!" Disturbing to some, but a reality to the majority for whom the Web has become a seamless part of their knowledge environment. Academics and instititutions that recognize and respond to this new environment ultimately will be among its beneficiaries.
  5. Citation is the highest form of flattery in academia: measures of citation rates, while they remain controversial in the detail of how they are applied, are generally acknowledged in principle as one of the most objective measures of the importance of academic works.
The essential concept behind the G-Factor is therefore to search (using the Google Search Engine) on every leading university's website for links to the websites of other leading universities and count the total number of such links. This number is the G-Factor.

What does the G-Factor mean?

Put simply, a university's G-factor is an indicator of the importance or relevance of the university from the combined perspectives of all of the leading universities in the world.
The G-Factor is an objective form of "peer review". Objective because the millions of academics, administrators and students who create the massive volume of content on university websites collectively vote with their feet when deciding to add a link to some content on another university website. In the parlance of economics, adding a hyperlink has an associated "cost" - it requires effort (usually) and involves a decision that its presence adds value to the linking web page. Thus a web link connotes value.
The G-Factor implicitly incorporates a view of the university system through Google's eyes. The Google search engine does not necessarily catalog every single web page in any particular website that it indexes. In order to make search results as meaningful as possible, Google typically only indexes web pages that (according to Google's proprietary algorithms) contain actual content. Thus the G-Factor only counts links on web pages that Google itself deems to be 'content'.

This sounds interesting - show me the results!

  • The full list of 300 universities and their G-Factor Ranking is shown here.
  • A chart showing the actual G-Factors for all 300 universities measured in January 2006 can be found here.

FAQ and Criticisms of the G-Factor

Do universities that have "template links" to their websites have an unfair advantage?
Template links are links that appear on every page automatically, for example, to acknowledge the ownership of some enabling web technology. The G-Factor does not attempt to remove such links from the count. This decision is based on both principle and on practical considerations. The principle is that the G-Factor attempts to measure the "profile" or "importance" or "relevance" of a university's website from the perspective of the universe of other leading university websites. Creating or owning a key piece of internet technology is in some real sense creating valuable intellectual content, in just the same way as writing the definitive text of a new academic field or discovering a new scientific technique that forms the basis for others that follow. The practical consideration is the difficulty of classifying and identifying the kinds of links one would wish not to count, which would inevitably involve subjective judgements. The G-factor currently remains ruthlessly objective by simply measuring what the data shows, without human distortion or justification.

Does the
G-Factor give an unfair advantage to larger universties or those with larger web sites?
Well, it might. However, since the G-Factor aims to measure the importance of a university in terms of its web presence, this is implicit. Moreover, size alone is not everything: a small university website that is highly referenced by other universities could receive many links from larger university websites, thus compensating for their smaller size.

The G-Factor only measures Google - what about other search engines?

Some "web metrics" do combine link counts from multiple search engines. There is, however, a problem with summing links over several search engines, as the way they index pages and count links differs. It would therefore be necessary to somehow 'normalize' the number of links measured by each search engine before adding these numbers together, but it is not obvious how to do that objectively. Instead, it would be better to compile X- Factors for each search engine of interest. However, Google is the most interesting search engine for these purposes due to its unique appproach to identifying and indexing web content.


Copyright Peter Hirst, 2006. This article and its contents and associated images may be freely reproduced and distributed provided that in every case its origin is properly attributed and a link to this website is included.