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Oceania and Africa rising in rankings

The reputations of universities in Oceania and Africa are increasing, the results of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023 suggest.

A total of 11 Chinese institutions – such as Sichuan University, Wuhan and Huazhong University of Science and Technology – are included in the top 200. Photo: pexels

Africa is on the increase, with Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Mauritius all represented for the first time

The rankings this year found that the dominance of US institutions at the highest level is continuing, but acknowledged “it is clear that the crown is slipping”.

“For the first time, continental data reveal that Oceania has overtaken North America to enjoy the distinction of the highest average overall score (based on universities ranked each year since 2018),” THE said.

UK and US institutions dominate the top 10 universities worldwide, with the University of Oxford, Harvard University, Stanford, Cambridge and MIT occupying the top five positions.

The average score across Oceania is 51.4, compared with 50.4 in North America, THE said. Last year, both regions scored 50.4.

Institutions in Australia have increased by 6.4 points over the past six years and are now almost equal to the average US score, the ranking said. The fall in US rankings was put down to a steady drop in citation scores and declines in research and teaching reputation.

Earlier this year, QS World University Rankings 2023 also noted that American higher education continues to “show signs of decline”, despite MIT maintaining its top position.

Of the 201 US universities ranked by QS, 103 saw their position fall, while 29 improved.

THE found that, along with Oceania rising, Africa is on the increase, with Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Mauritius all represented for the first time.

The number of African countries in the THE ranking has increased from nine in 2018 to 17 this year. The 12 Nigerian institutions included this year is twice as many as 2021.

It also pointed to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates as improving overall scores at a faster rate than the global average.

“You have to run very fast to stand still in the global rankings,” said Phil Baty, THE’s chief knowledge officer. “Losing ground can risk a vicious circle of gradually losing access to global talent and partnerships.”

Australia’s overall success was attributed to its universities’ research productivity, “very strong” international collaboration, “lucrative overseas student market” and “very healthy levels of research funding over the past 15 years or so”, Baty added.

The QS rankings, released in June, saw Australia retain its five top-50 universities, but suggested it is “stagnating, with as many universities improving as declining”.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the latest rankings show that Australia’s universities are “continuing to grow in strength and prominence”.

“Our world-class universities are playing a greater role in our region, and this is reflected in the latest rankings as Oceania finishes top of the class,” she said.

With seven universities in the world’s top 100 – all members of the Group of Eight – and 10 in the top 200, Australia is the joint-fifth most-represented country in the ranking.

“Go8 universities invest $7.2 billion annually into quality research and we receive $1bn annually in research income from industry – more than twice the rest of the sector combined,” Go8 chief executive Vicki Thomson said.

“We are without peer when it comes to research effort and reputation – which augers well for the future as we emerge from the Covid crisis and the associated economic challenges.

“More Australian universities have gained ground rather than dropped in the rankings”

“More Australian universities have gained ground rather than dropped in the rankings, which is testament to the overall quality of our higher education sector.”

“Our higher education sector is a global leader in teaching and research,” Jackson added.

“This is an outstanding achievement and much-deserved recognition of the role our universities play in a modern economy, especially after the challenges of the last few years.”

Seven of the nine German universities in the top 100 are also members of research-intensive university group German U15.

German U15 chairman and president of Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Georg Krausch, said the result underlines the international reputation and the research and teaching strengths of the group.

“The unbroken dominance of the financially strong Anglo-American universities and the clear upward trend of the strongly funded Chinese universities show that research and teaching are in direct relation to adequate funding,” he said.

“Despite the tense budget situation and in view of rising energy prices and high inflation rates, we must not allow ourselves to be left behind when it comes to university financing in an international comparison.”

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