· What is the ranking of such-and-such an institution?
· Which are the best institutions for [pick your discipline]?
Rankings are, at best, oversimplifications based on a set of criteria that may or may not be relevant to an international educator or to students. For example, a US American student might want to study Portuguese in Brazil. Where should she go? The highest ranked institutions tend to be large and located in large cities in the Southeast of the country. But the student may learn more by being in a more remote location, far away from the largest cities, where she can live in a homestay and where she will find few Americans. Sure, the program has to be good enough – but the other characteristics are also important, almost certainly more so than the ranking of a particular institution.
Similarly, a Brazilian student who wants to study in the United States may initially be reluctant to travel to rural Minnesota or Pennsylvania, but that small liberal arts school outside of the major cities may provide a better education to this particular inbound international student.
So much depends on the context – the context of the institution and the context of the individual. Can we put rankings aside, please?