Australia rises as US, UK universities dip in reputation survey

Three UK universities have dropped out of the top 100 in the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, while Australia continues to build its presence. The US, which has more universities than any other nation in the top 100, has lost two universities since the ranking began.

The 2013 rankings, published on Monday, seal Harvard University’s place at the head of an elite 'top six' of Anglo-American universities that continue to move further ahead of the rest.

Harvard University (pictured) is followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, the University of California – Berkeley, and Stanford University.

Although Oxford traded places with Stanford this year, membership of the top six has remained consistent since the rankings’ first edition in 2011, "with the gap between it and the chasing pack widening each year", according to the survey.

The World Reputation Rankings are a part of the ranking system published by the THE, but do not replace the broader World University Rankings published each autumn.

US representation in the top 100 dipped from 45 in 2011 to 44 in 2012 and to 43 in 2013.

Most of the US institutions to suffer significant falls are public universities, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison (27 to 30), the University of California – San Francisco (31 to 40), the University of Massachusetts (39 to 42), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (which has dropped out of the top 50) and the University of Pittsburgh (which has fallen from the 61-70 band to 71-80).

US winners include Carnegie Mellon University (37 to 26) and New York University (34 to 29).

Outside the US, the UK has the most representatives (nine) in the top 100, but its overall performance has weakened since 2011, when it had 12.

The UK has seven universities in the top 50, with University College London up one place to 20 and the London School of Economics up from 29 to 25. The University of Edinburgh climbed three places to 46 and the University of Manchester has entered the global top 50 for the first time, in 47th place.

But this year the University of Leeds dropped out of the top 100, following the relegation in 2012 of the University of Sheffield and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, commented: “Traditionally, the strength in depth of the UK system has been one of its most notable features. Having a large number of institutions with truly world-class standing has delivered huge returns for the sector and the wider economy.

“However, it now seems that a gap is opening up between the best and the rest, with even star institutions losing their lustre. With the coalition government attempting to introduce a ruthless market in UK higher education and concentrating increasingly scarce resources on a select few, it looks like there will be trouble ahead for UK plc.”

Australia rising

Outside the US and UK, Australia built on its strong representation, with the four existing top 100 universities joined for the first time by Monash University (91-100 band) and the University of New South Wales (81-90 band).

Baty said: “In many ways these results show that Australia’s image among scholars around the world is catching up with the reality: until now it has tended to perform less well in the reputation rankings compared with the overall, objective World University Rankings, which come out every autumn.

“These results show how well poised Australia is to make the most of its geographical advantages: while it has strong links with the best universities in the West, it has also made the most of East Asia’s booming higher education scene.

"If it continues to exploit these opportunities, Australia could be a serious beneficiary of the Asian Century, which is great news for its economy and competitiveness.”

Other nations

Japan, The Netherlands and Germany each has five institutions in the top 100, with Germany gaining a new entrant in 2013: Freie Universität Berlin, which entered the 91-100 band.

Canada, Hong Kong and Sweden each has three institutions in the top 100.

Japan remains Asia’s leading nation, but its universities are losing ground to rivals in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, including the National University of Singapore (up one place to 22), Nanyang Technological University (from 91-100 in 2011 to 71-80 this year), Seoul National University (41), and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (up from 81-90 to 61-70).

The University of Hong Kong is in 36th place (up from 39 in 2012 and 42 in 2011) and National Taiwan University moved up from the 81-90 band in 2011 to the 51-60 group in 2013.

Although they remain in the top 50, China’s two globally reputed universities have slipped down the ranking – Tsinghua University from 30 to 35 and Peking University from 38 to 45.

Just 20 countries are represented in the top 100. India and Ireland do not appear, and nor does any African country. Brazil’s University of São Paulo, which holds its position in the 61-70 band, is the only Latin American institution represented.

Israel lost one of its two top 100 representatives, Tel Aviv University, while the Hebrew University of Jerusalem slipped from the 61-70 band to 71-80.

The reputation rankings are based on a global invitation-only opinion poll carried out by Ipsos MediaCT for THE’s rankings data supplier, Thomson Reuters. Over three years, there have been 48,000 responses from senior published academics in more than 150 countries, with the 2013 survey based on 16,639 responses.

Baty said: “It is clear that no university, no matter how prestigious, can afford to be complacent in this fast-moving, information-rich global age. New forces in higher education are emerging, especially in the East Asian countries that are investing heavily in building world-class universities, so the traditional elite must be very careful.

"In the three years that the World Reputation Rankings have been running, we have clear evidence that the US and the UK in particular are losing ground.”

Full results of the survey are here.

* Photo credit: Busch Courtyard at Harvard University. Picture by Rose Lincoln, a Harvard staff photographer.