With the exception of Switzerland’s ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich in 12th place, all of this year’s year’s top 20 institutions were British or American: The top five including the California Institute of Technology in pole position, the University of Oxford and Stanford University joint second, Harvard University fourth, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifth.
“While the sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm”
However, in the top 200 US and UK institutions fell by an average 6.5 and 6.7 places respectively. By contrast the Republic of Korea rose by a startling 23.5 places with all its represented universities climbing the table. China, Singapore and Hong Kong also did well.
Dirk Van Damme, head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress Division at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said: “Academic excellence is gradually shifting away from the 20th-century centres. The US and the UK still dominate the absolute summit, but they face a severe loss of total position in the top 200 list.”
Demonstrating the scale of the US fall, 51 of its 76 top 200 universities slipped. England did not fare any better, blamed widely on its recent tuition fees increase. Of 31 universities, 19 fell and the University of Dundee dropped out of the group altogether.
Asia’s strong perfomance was inversely put down to investment. Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education, said: “Huge investment in top research universities across Asia is starting to pay off.”
“And while the Sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm – falling public investment in teaching and research, hostile visa conditions discouraging the world’s top academics and students from coming here, and serious uncertainty about where our next generation of scholars will come from, with a policy vacuum surrounding postgraduate study.”
Outside the UK and US, the next best represented country in the top 200 was the Netherlands with 12 institutions in the top 200 and an average rise of 27.83 places.
“Academic excellence is gradually shifting away from the 20th-century centres”
Australia saw six of its eight representatives climb, while France fielded seven in the top 200 – up from five.
Of the Asian leaders, Hong Kong finished with an average rise of 8.5 places, while China’s two top 200 institutions climbed: Peking University from 49th to 46th and Tsinghua University from 71st to 52nd – up 19 places.
The University of Tokyo was the top ranked Asian institution this year, however Japan’s five other top 200 universities slipped marginally.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings use 13 performance indicators to examine a university’s strengths in teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. While the rankings are widely regarded as a kite mark of quality, critics say they cover only around 3% of the world’s universities and inadequately reflect teaching quality, focusing instead on research.