Several readers sent this item, the latest worthless misinformation from the "world universities" ranking industry, in which "QS" (which, contrary to rumor, does not actually stand for 'Quirky Silliness") is a main player. As a commenter at The Guardian site notes, five of the universities ranked tops in Geography do not even have geography departments! And which are the "top five" US universities in philosophy?
1. Harvard University
2. University of California, Berkeley
3. Princeton University
4. Stanford University
5. Yale University
That corresponds decently to the top five American research universities, to be sure, but it has nothing to do with the top five U.S. philosophy departments, at least not in the 21st-century. But it should hardly be surprising that if you ask academics teaching in philosophy departments in Japan or Italy to rank the best philosophy departments, many of them will use general university reputation as a proxy. Indeed, every department that is pretty obviously "overrated" in philosophy in this list is at a top research university, and every department obviously underrated is not: so, e.g., Rutgers comes in at a mere 13th, Pittsburgh at 18th (behind Brown and Penn), and North Carolina at 20th.
One may hope that no student thinking about post-graduate work will base any decisions on this nonsense.
UPDATE: A linguistics PhD student at Maryland writes:
I spent the last two years talking with linguists to figure out where to apply for graduate school, and I can tell you that the linguistics rankings are as bad as the philosophy rankings. The best departments seem to be (by my own measure of consensus in the field): UMass Amherst, U of Maryland College Park, Penn, MIT, Stanford, and a small handful of others. There'd only be about 35 schools to consider, since there aren't very many PhD programs in linguistics, so these rankings may as well be 10 names picked at random from the group. In all the hours I've spent talking with advisors and faculty and graduate students from 5-6 different schools, I've never heard anyone mention, for instance, McGill as a competitive department. So it's not only philosophy and geography they're out to lunch on.
ANOTHER: Jo Wolff (UCL) has I think discovered the real source for the absurd rankings: "Don't know if you got this far - seems like they took employers' view into account somehow. Pittsburgh got 0.0 for that, Rutgers 3.9 and Harvard 96.3." And Harvard's score was far and away the highest. Even if not all academics are moved by the halo effect, surely the employers are!