Asian countries increase share of top 500 universities

United States universities continue to dominate in the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities or ARWU released last week by the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, with Harvard University remaining top for the 15th year running, and Stanford staying second.

The key change in the top 10 is that the United Kingdom’s Cambridge University has overtaken the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley to make it into the top three.

The US takes eight of the top 10 and 16 of the top 20, with Washington University in St Louis in the top 20 for the first time at 20th, up from 23rd.

The UK has two in the top 10 – with the University of Oxford again seventh – and three in the top 20, with University College London moving up one place to 16th.

The only other country to have a top 20 university is Switzerland, with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich or ETH Zurich still at 19th, ensuring it continues to be the top ranked university in continental Europe – ahead of Denmark’s University of Copenhagen (30th) and Pierre and Marie Curie University (40th) in France.

Among five universities breaking into the top 100, Erasmus University in the Netherlands (73rd) and Cardiff University in the UK (tie 99th) are making their first appearance.

Overall, universities from the United States dominate with 48 top 100 universities and 135 top 500 universities. China has 57 top 500 universities and the United Kingdom has 38. In total, 18 universities enter the top 500 list for the first time.

Dr Snow Wang, the ranking manager of ShanghaiRanking, said: “There is still a strong dominance of American universities both in terms of the top positions and the overall 500 list. But this year the number of top 500 universities has risen for Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea, with 57, 17 and 12 universities in the top 500 respectively.”

The University of Tokyo is ranked 24th and is still the highest ranked university in Asia. China’s Tsinghua University (tie 48th) enters the top 50 for the first time and becomes the third top-ranked Asian university behind Kyoto University, Japan (35th). The University of Melbourne, Australia (39th), tops other universities in Oceania.

Wang said that ARWU has maintained transparent and stable methodology since it launched in 2003. The number of universities ranked has grown to more than 1,300 this year.

“This year, in addition to the top 500 universities, ShanghaiRanking announces the list of universities ranked between 501 and 800 as ARWU World Top 500 Candidates.

According to ARWU, these universities “demonstrate their potential of breaking into the top 500 list in the near future”.

The pattern by continent reveals the Americas dominate in the top 100 (Americas 52, Europe 35, Asia-Oceana 13, Africa 0). But Europe has more institutions in the top 500 (Americas 164, Europe 198, Asia-Oceana 132, Africa 6) and Asia leads in the top 501-800 (Americas 76, Europe 97, Asia-Oceana 122, Africa 5).

Africa remains almost absent from the top tables, with no universities in the top 200, one in the top 300, two in the top 400 and six in the top 500.

The Americas category includes Latin America, which has 11 in the top 500, led by Brazil with six (University of Sao Paulo, 151-200; Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, 301-400; UNESP, 301-400; Federal University of Minas Gerais, 401-500; Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, 401-500; and University of Campinas, 401-500), Chile with two (University of Chile, 301-400, and Catholic University of Chile, 401-500), Argentina with one (University of Buenos Aires, 201-300) and Mexico with one (National Autonomous University of Mexico, 201-300).

Russia had one in the top 100, Moscow State University (93rd), plus Saint Petersburg State University (301-400) and Novosibirsk State University (401-500) in the top 500.

Out of the 300 universities ranked ‘ARWU s World Top 500 Candidates’ – because they rank 501-800 – an equal number are from the United States and China – with 55 apiece.

Asian rivalries

China has yet to match Japan in terms of pushing for top places in the rankings, although it remains Japan’s nearest rival in this regard, according to the Shanghai ranking.

China’s highest-placed institution is Tsinghua University at tie 48th, followed by Peking at tie 71st and Fudan in the 101-150 band. This compares with Japan’s top three universities of Tokyo (24th), Kyoto (35th) and Nagoya (84th).

Singapore’s top institution is the National University of Singapore (91st), followed by Nanyang Technological University (101-150), but it has no other top 500 institutions.

Hong Kong’s top three universities are spread across three bands: the University of Hong Kong (101-150), Chinese University of Hong Kong (151-200) and City University of Hong Kong (201-300), while South Korea’s top institution Seoul National University is in the 101-150 band, and Hanyang University and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are in the 201-300 band.

Malaysia remains way behind with two in the top 500, both in the 401-500 band (University of Malaya and University of Science, Malaysia). Thailand had one top 500 institution with Chulalongkorn University in the 401-500 band.

Objective indicators

ARWU has been presenting the world top 500 universities annually since 2003. It claims to be the precursor of global university rankings and “the most trustworthy” league table.

It adopts six ‘objective indicators’ to rank world universities with different weightings, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (10% and 20% weighting respectively), the number of Highly Cited Researchers (20%), the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science (20%), the number of articles indexed in the Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index (20%), and per capita performance of the institution (10%).

For institutions specialised in humanities and social sciences, such as the London School of Economics and Political Science, the number of papers in Science and Nature is not considered and the weight of that criterion is redistributed to other indicators, ARWU says.

About 1,300 universities are actually ranked by ARWU every year and the best 500 universities are published. This is the first year that those universities ranked between 501 and 800 in the world have also been published.