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QS World University Rankings 2016/17

Western Europe wanes while China, South Korea, US, and Russia surge

This year’s rankings imply that levels of investment are determining who progresses and who regresses. Institutions in countries that provide high levels of targeted funding, whether from endowments or from the public purse, are rising. On the other hand, Western European nations making or proposing cuts to public research spending are losing ground to their US and Asian counterparts.

London, 13th September 2016: The thirteenth edition of the QS World University Rankings has been released today by global higher education think tank QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Last year’s global leader Massachusetts Institute of Technology retains its status as the world’s foremost higher education institution for the fifth consecutive year. It is followed by compatriots Stanford and Harvard. The University of Cambridge, previously joint-third, drops to fourth.


US dominance

Stanford’s rise into the top three comes about primarily as the result of better student/teacher ratios, especially relative to Harvard University, which sees its performance in this metric slightly decrease. Stanford also benefits from a drop in the University of Cambridge’s relative research performance, with the former raising its performance for in QS’s internationalisation indicators. The result is the United States taking all of the top-three places for the first time since the inaugural rankings of 2004/5.

Western Europe’s wane


The University of Cambridge’s fall is the most prominent example of a regressive trend afflicting higher education institutions in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and other prominent Western European nations. There are advances made by nations in Asia and Eastern Europe – including Russia, China, and South Korea– while Latin American institutions see consistent falls.

       

QS World University Rankings 2016/2017: Top 20

2016

2015

Institution Name

Country/ Territory

 1  

 1  

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT)

US

 2  

 3=

STANFORD UNIVERSITY

US

 3  

 2  

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

US

 4  

 3=

UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

UK

 5  

 5  

CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (CALTECH)

US

 6  

 6  

UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

UK

 7  

 7  

UCL (UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON)

UK

 8  

 9  

ETH ZURICH (SWISS FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY)

CH

 9  

 8  

IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

UK

 10  

 10  

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

US

 11  

 11  

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

US

 12  

 12  

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE (NUS)

SG

 13  

 13  

NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY (NTU)

SG

 14  

 14  

ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE (EPFL)

CH

 15  

 15  

YALE UNIVERSITY

US

 16  

 17  

CORNELL UNIVERSITY

US

 17  

 16  

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

US

 18  

 18  

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

US

 19  

 21  

UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

UK

 20  

 22  

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

US

 

Notable individual institutional changes
 

Australia no longer possesses a top-20 university after Australian National University slides to 21st, while three new institutions – one from China and one from Hong Kong – enter the global top fifty. The UK also suffers a top-20 casualty in the form of King’s College London, but sees the University of Edinburgh take the 19th-place position previously held by King’s.

Argentina’s flagship institution, the Universidad de Buenos Aires, provides some respite for the nation and region. It soars into the top 100 after a 39-place rise. Brazil’s own national leader, the Universidad de Sao Paulo, enjoys a similar leap, rising 23 places to 120th. China’s Wuhan University rises 8 places to 43rd. It is closely followed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which rises 7 places to 44th. 11 countries feature one or more top-50 institutions.


This year’s QS World University Rankings provide the world’s largest resource for students, academics, and policy-makers seeking to compare global university performance. Their  compilation is the result of analysing 10.3 million academic papers and 66.3 million citations indexed by Elsevier’s Scopus database. They are also compiled using 112,000 responses sourced from the world’s academics and employers, themselves the world’s largest surveys of their kind. The world’s top 916 tertiary institutions are now ranked.

 

Explaining Western Europe’s decline
 

The decline of Western European universities occurs primarily due to worsening relative performance in QS’s reputational surveys. This is compounded by drops in QS’s internationalisation metrics. Over half of Western Europe’s 232 ranked universities see lowered rank for academic reputation. The same trend can be observed for employer reputation scores, proportion of international faculty, and faculty/student ratios. Western Europe’s performance for QS’s research metric is more stable. However, only a marginal majority of universities see static or improved rank for citations per faculty.

QS’s Intelligence Unit, responsible for all QS research operations and ranking compilation, attribute these trends to a number of interacting factors. One prominent one is the continued concern about public higher education funding afflicting a number of economically sluggish Western European nations.

 

This is exacerbated, it is suggested, by the resultant funding struggles facing academics residing in Europe. Another is a series of concerted effort by non-European nations to improve both international student mobility and international research collaborations - examples include Russia’s 5-100 program and the Common Space of Higher Education invoked by ASEAN members. These efforts are visible in Russia’s substantially improved performance in both of QS’s internationalisation metrics.
 

Sowter said: “This year’s rankings imply that levels of investment are determining who progresses and who regresses. Institutions in countries that provide high levels of targeted funding, whether from endowments or from the public purse, are rising. On the other hand, Western European nations making or proposing cuts to public research spending are losing ground to their US and Asian counterparts.”

 

Elsewhere in the world, Latin American universities continue to see uniform struggles with research metrics. They also see performance plummet for both international student ratio and international faculty ratio. However, one positive comes in the form of consistent improvements for employer reputation, while the Universidad de Buenos Aires’s success means that Latin America has a representative among the world’s top 100 for the first time since the 2006 edition of the rankings.

The expansion of the rankings also makes it the most inclusive, globally-representative instalment yet. 81 nations are represented, while institutions from Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda ensure their home nations are visible for the first time.

The full QS World University Rankings for 2016/17 can be found here.

 

-Ends-
 


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