America dominates, China rises in Shanghai rankings

American universities maintain their dominance of the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities, or ARWU, released by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University on Saturday, taking eight out of the top 10 places, and 16 out of the top 20.

Harvard University remains the number one in the world for the 13th year. In fact, the first 15 places remain the same, except that Oxford University drops from joint ninth down to tenth. The top ten are Harvard, Stanford, MIT, California Berkeley, Cambridge, Princeton, Caltech, Columbia, Chicago and Oxford.

But while the top echelons of the ranking show little change, there has been some notable movement lower down, with a steady improvement in the position of Chinese universities.

Dr Ying Cheng, who leads the research on the rankings for Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, the independent organisation which publishes the ARWU, said: “Though the number of top 500 universities from China kept unchanged, the exact positions of almost all of them rise. The best ranked two Chinese universities, Tsinghua and Peking, are very close to the top 100 now.”

He also pointed to the significant leap by one institution, the UK’s Warwick University, which breaks into the top 100 for the first time, in 92nd place.

“Last year it was ranked in the group of 151-200; Professor Martin Hairer being awarded the Fields Medal in 2014 was the major reason behind the jump.”

The UK takes three places in the top 20 with Cambridge and Oxford joined by University College London up two places at 18th. Other UK universities in the top 50 are the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (23rd), the University of Manchester (joint 41st) and the University of Edinburgh (47th).

In continental Europe, the Swiss Federal Institute of Techology Zurich or ETH Zurich (20th) in Switzerland takes first place, and the University of Copenhagen (35th) in Denmark overtakes Pierre and Marie Curie University (36th) in France as the second best university in this region. These were followed by France’s University of Paris-Sud (joint 41st), Germany’s Heidelberg University (46th) and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (48th).

The University of Tokyo (21st) and Kyoto University (26th) keep their leading positions as the only top 50 universities in Asia.

The University of Melbourne (joint 44th) tops universities in Oceania.

Canada had two in the top 50 with the University of Toronto 25th and the University of British Columbia 40th.

Shared dominance

Overall, the Americas take a majority of the top 100 and share dominance of the top 500 with Europe. The Americas have 16 of the top 20, 55 of the top 100, and 176 of the top 500. Europe has four in the top 20, 35 in the top 100, and 205 in the top 500. Asia-Pacific has none in the top 20, 10 in the top 100, and 114 in the top 500. Africa has none in the top 100, but five in the top 500.

Only three countries are represented in the top 20 – USA (16), UK (3) and Switzerland (1). Some 16 countries were represented in the top 100 – led by the USA (51), UK (9), Switzerland (4), Germany (4), France (4), Australia (4), the Netherlands (4), Japan (4), Canada (4), Sweden (3), Belgium (2), Israel (2), Denmark (2), Norway (1), Finland (1) and Russia (1).

China has none in the top 100 but five in the top 200 and 44 in the top 500, second only to the USA.

Among Arab countries the highest performer was Saudi Arabia with two in the top 200 and four in the top 500, followed by Egypt with one in the top 500.

Among Latin American countries, Brazil led with one in the top 200 and six in the top 500, followed by Argentina with one in the top 200 and one in the top 500.

Four of Africa’s five in the top 500 were South African universities, the other being Egypt’s.

There are 11 universities breaking into the top 500 list in 2015, with Queensland University of Technology in Australia and Sharif University of Technology in Iran making their first appearance.

Subject field rankings

The Center for World-Class Universities also releases the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities by Broad Subject Fields and the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities by Subject Fields.

The top 200 universities in five broad subject fields and in five selected subject fields are listed, where the best five universities are:

Broad subjects
Natural Sciences and Mathematics – Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Caltech
Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences – MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, UIUC and UT Austin
Life and Agriculture Sciences – Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford, MIT and UC San Francisco
Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy – Harvard, UC San Francisco, Washington (Seattle), Johns Hopkins and Stanford
Social Sciences – Harvard, Chicago, MIT, Columbia and Berkeley

Select fields
Mathematics – Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, Pierre & Marie Curie
Physics – Berkeley, Princeton, Harvard, MIT and Caltech
Chemistry – Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, Caltech and Northwestern (Evanston)
Computer Science – Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton
Economics/Business – Harvard, Chicago, MIT, Berkeley and Columbia

Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley and Columbia are in the top 20 in all five selected subject fields, while only Harvard and Cambridge are in the top 20 in all of the five broad subject fields.

Dr Cheng noted that the subject field and selected field rankings provide a sign of how non-American and non-European countries are making progress in some areas.

“Asian and Oceanian universities perform as well as European universities or even better in engineering, chemistry and computer science,” Cheng said.

ARWU has been presenting the world Top 500 universities annually since 2003. The complete 2015 lists and detailed methodologies can be found at the Academic Ranking of World Universities website at

Although it only publishes the top 500, ARWU ranks 1,200 universities every year, using six indicators. These include the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of Highly Cited Researchers, the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed in the Science Citation Index Expanded and the Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance.

The Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, or CWCU, has organised a biennial International Conference on World-Class Universities since 2005 and specialises in the theoretical and policy study of 'World-Class Universities'. It builds databases of major research universities in the world and a clearinghouse of literature on World-Class Universities, and provides consultations for governments and universities.