East Asian universities gain ground on US and UK – THE ranking

The erosion of the United States and United Kingdom's domination of global university league tables is continuing, according to analysts reviewing the 2013-14 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, out this week.

While the pace is slower than suggested when last year’s rankings were released, it is apparent that while universities in America and in London are holding their own, institutions in the UK’s regions and in continental Europe are losing out to competitors from Asia – and specifically from China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

The top 10 institutions remain unchanged from last year, although there has been some movement among them. While California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, again tops the table, Harvard displaces Stanford from equal second with Oxford.

Below the top three the order is Stanford (down from second), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Cambridge, University of California, Berkeley (up one place), Chicago (up one place) and Imperial College London (down two places).


THE analysts point to “alarming signs” across continental Europe, as the top universities in Germany, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, the Republic of Ireland and Austria all fall, while leading institutions in China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan make gains

The Netherlands has 12 players, followed by Germany with 10 (down from 11 last year), France with eight, Switzerland with seven and Belgium with five (one more than last year).

ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich – the leading university outside the US and the UK, drops two places to 14; the University of Munich falls out of the top 50; and the pattern is reflected in Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Ireland and Austria.

United Kingdom

Overall, after signs of decline last year, the UK has held firm as a nation in the tables: it retains three of the world top 10 positions, seven of the top 50, 11 in the top 100 – up from 10 last year – 31 in the top 200 universities and 49 in the top 400. While 14 UK top 200 institutions fell this year, 14 also rose, while three retained their positions.

London now has four universities in the top 40 (up from three) – more than any other city – and six top 200 institutions – more than Japan, the world’s third largest economy (five), China, Sweden or South Korea.

Imperial College London slipped two places to 10 and University College London dropped four places to 21, but the London School of Economics jumped up seven places to 32 (up from 47 in 2011-12) and King’s College London jumped 19 places to 38.

Royal Holloway, University of London, rose from 119 to 102, while Queen Mary, University of London, rose from 145 to 114.

But the results have raised concerns that power is draining from the UK regions, while what THE describes as the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge prospers.

Many UK regional universities – including Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, Warwick, Southampton, Nottingham and Newcastle – fell in this year’s rankings, some notably over three consecutive years.

The University of Manchester, ranked 48 in the world in 2011-12, has now fallen to 58. The University of Bristol, 66 in 2011-12, is now at 79. Sheffield, 101 in 2011-12, is 112 in 2013-14. A similar picture emerges with Aberdeen, down from 151 in 2011-12 to 188 this year, Reading (164 to 194 over three years) and Newcastle, which has fallen from 146 in 2011-12 to 198 this year.

Institutions registering falls since last year include the University of Nottingham (120 to 157), Southampton (130 to 146) and Warwick (124 to 141).


Many universities in Asia improved their performance, with the University of Tokyo still Asia’s number one and up four places to 23.

The National University of Singapore is second in the region (up from 29 to 26) while South Korea’s Seoul National University moves into the top 50 for the first time (44), followed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (up from 68 to 56).

Peking University in China creeps up one place to 45, and close rival Tsinghua University rises two places to joint 50.

While the University of Hong Kong is one of the few leading East Asian institutions to fall in comparison with 2012-13 (down eight places to 43), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (57) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (joint 109) both make significant gains.


There are 26 countries in the world top 200 list – two more than last year due to Turkey, Spain and Norway rejoining the group with Brazil dropping out.

Eight countries now have only one top 200 representative: Austria, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey.

Africa has only a single representative – the University of Cape Town (joint 126th, down from 113) – in the top 200 and three in the top 400, with the Witwatersrand in the 226-250 group and Stellenbosch between 301-350.

Oceania has eight universities in the top 200, led by Melbourne at 34 and including New Zealand's Auckland at 164. Australia has 19 universities in the top 400 and New Zealand five.

Phil Baty, editor of the THE World University Rankings, said: “The power shift from West to East is not as dramatic this year, as the US and the UK have both managed to arrest alarming falls at the national level.

“But the trend is continuing: the vast majority of continental Europe’s leading institutions have slipped, while those leading the East Asian nations have for the most part risen yet again.

“More Asian institutions are nipping at the heels of the best in the West, increasingly occupying world top 50 places and showing no signs of letting up.”

Data for the rankings were provided by Thomson Reuters from its Global Institutional Profiles project, a multi-stage process that collects and validates factual data about academic institutional performance across a range of aspects and multiple disciplines.

The full tables are available here.