“We’ve been seeing signs of the gloss coming off America a bit, with austerity harming the state institutions and the rise of alternatives to American universities”
The UK is the second most represented country in the rankings, which are based on over 10,500 subjective survey responses from senior academics worldwide.
Eight of the UK’s 10 “top 100” entrants are in the “golden triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge, revealing a concerning polarisation between the southeast and the rest of the UK.
US institutions have rallied after losing ground last year, although some state universities have dropped places in the reputation league table. Stanford’s rise to third place has pushed both Oxford and Cambridge down one place, while the California Institute of Technology has risen by two places to ninth, displacing the University of Tokyo.
Phil Baty, Editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, told The PIE News that he was surprised to see the US “not only consolidating its position but actually strengthening it” in spite of challenges in the sector.
“They’ve had the household names at the top of the list for years so they’ve always done well, but I think we’ve been seeing signs of the gloss coming off America a bit, with austerity harming the state institutions and the rise of alternatives to American universities in terms of increased regionalism within Asia,” he said.
The rankings indicate that private universities are pulling away slightly from their public counterparts, which have been hit by severe funding cuts in recent years.
Asian institutions continued to gain ground, although China shows signs of stagnation, despite major reforms to the sector and huge investment leading to significant increases in research input. A mixed year for both the mainland and Hong Kong could show that China has reached a “plateau” in terms of global prestige, Baty told The PIE News.
“There’s a sense that all the investment, the research output and the enthusiasm to work with China hasn’t necessarily improved China’s reputation”
“There’s a sense that all the investment, all the improvement, the research output and the attention on Chinese universities and the enthusiasm to work with China hasn’t necessarily materialised and improved China’s reputation,” he said.
Seoul National University, South Korea’s flagship institution, is Asia’s biggest riser. Its 15-place leap cements the country’s strong performance, with Yonsei University entering the rankings for the first time and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology climbing to the 51-60 band.
Japan remains the highest ranking country in the region by some way, despite slipping from the top ten. Meanwhile, the National University of Singapore has continued its steady climb from 27th in 2011 to 21st this year, while Singapore’s other representative, Nanyang Technological University, has slipped into the 91-100 group.
Australia has shown an unexpected downturn in the rankings that its editors can “only speculate” about, Baty said. He suggested that the drop may be down to drastic budget cuts to the tertiary sector announced during the nomination period, despite not having yet come into effect.
Sweden and France have has also fared poorly, with each losing two representatives in the top 100.