In this paper, we examine whether the quality of academic research can be accurately captured by a single aggregated measure
such as a ranking. With Shanghai University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities as the basis for our study, we use robust principal component analysis to uncover the underlying factors measured by this
ranking. Based on a sample containing the top 150 ranked universities, we find evidence that, for the majority of these institutions,
the Shanghai rankings reflect not one but in fact two different and uncorrelated aspects of academic research: overall research
output and top-notch researchers. Consequently, the relative weight placed upon these two factors determines to a large extent
the final ranking.