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UK top but Germany challenges in European ranking

The United Kingdom dominates the Times Higher Education European Top 200 Rankings published last week with 46 institutions in the list.

The University of Oxford came top, followed by the University of Cambridge, and Imperial College London, as the UK took seven of the first eight places.

ETH Zurich or Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich came fourth, followed by University College London (5th), London School of Economics and Political Science (6th), the University of Edinburgh (7th) and King’s College London (8th), Karolinska Institute (9th) and LMU Munich (10th).

Overall, the UK dominates the list, taking nearly a quarter of all places including seven in the top 10 and 17 in the top 50.

Despite the UK’s strong performance, Germany, with 36 institutions in the top 200 and 11 in the top 50, is challenging its dominance.

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education rankings editor, said UK universities are facing increasing competition from European universities offering programmes in English and warned that its share of the market for international students – worth £4.5 billion (US$6.4 billion) for their spending on tuition fees and accommodation alone – is “increasingly at risk”.

“For the first time this year the UK saw international student numbers stagnate, with significant drops from some countries,” he said.

And it was not just that the UK’s restrictive immigration policies and the noisy rhetoric surrounding the issue are leading many students to perceive that they are not welcome.

“We are also seeing the increasing popularity of European universities which are often just as highly ranked as their UK competitors but also much, much cheaper to study at.”

“These powerful universities on the continent are actively challenging UK market share: delivering more and more degree courses fully in English to attract students who in the past would only have chosen the UK, US or Australia. At the last count, the top universities in the Netherlands and Germany were offering around 2,000 degree programmes taught in the English language between them.”

Elsewhere in Europe

Elsewhere in Europe, Scandinavian countries perform well, with Sweden and Finland punching above their weight relative to their population size with 11 and 6 institutions respectively in the top 200. Sweden’s top ranked institution – Karolinska Institute – is in ninth place.

Other strong performers relative to population size include Denmark (6 universities), the Republic of Ireland (6) and Switzerland (9).

The Netherlands performs well with 13 institutions in the ranking while Belgium is solid with seven universities in the top 200.

Countries in the east and south of Europe generally score poorly in the Times Higher Education or THE’s European ranking. Countries in these regions either perform relatively weakly (Estonia, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal with only one institution each in the group 171-200), or do not appear at all in the top 200 (Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and the whole of the former Yugoslavia).

Russia is perhaps the surprise underperformer, with just five institutions in the top 200, making it the lowest-ranked country relative to its population and gross domestic product or GDP – although it ranks highly relative to its GDP per capita.

The UK’s success in the European ranking is reflected in its position in THE’s World University Rankings, with 78 institutions in the top 800 and 34 in the top 200, making it second only to the US for the number of world-class universities featured in the list.

It also has three in the world ranking’s top 10 with the University of Oxford in second place, followed by the University of Cambridge in fourth and Imperial College London in eighth place.
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