US leads China in latest global university rankings

United States universities have taken the top four spots in the US News and World Report’s 2018 Best Global Universities rankings, released on Tuesday. The US dominates with 221 spots out of the 1,250 institutions evaluated, followed by China with 136, Japan with 76, the United Kingdom with 73 and Germany with 58.

The rest of the top 10 performing countries were France (57 institutions ranked), Italy (52), Spain (46), South Korea (44) and Australia and Canada (both with 33).

Among emerging economies, Turkey (with 30) came close to the top 10 followed by Brazil with 29. India, Poland and Taiwan had 24 institutions in the ranking, but Russia managed only 15.

Harvard University takes top spot, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT, Stanford University and the University of California–Berkeley. The UK’s University of Oxford rounds out the top five.

While the UK’s University of Cambridge takes seventh spot, the rest of the top 10 are also from the US, with the California Institute of Technology coming sixth, and Columbia University eighth, followed by Princeton University (ninth) and Johns Hopkins University, the University of Washington and Yale University tied at 10th place.

There is a 25% increase in the number of universities evaluated compared to last year. They are drawn from 74 countries worldwide, compared to 65 countries a year ago.

In addition to the overall list, the new edition of Best Global Universities includes rankings by country, region and subject. New this year are four country-specific rankings, including new ones for Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan and Romania, bringing the total up to 42.

Subject-specific rankings

Across the 22 subject-specific rankings, US universities again claim the most number one spots. For the first time, China’s Tsinghua University replaces MIT as number one in computer science and once again tops the list for engineering.

Listed in rank order, these countries performed the best in the following subject rankings:
  • • Computer science: US, China, UK, Canada, Australia.

  • • Economics and business: US, UK, Australia, Canada, China (tie), Netherlands (tie).

  • • Engineering: US, China, UK, Canada, Italy.

  • • Neuroscience and behaviour: US, Germany, UK, Canada (tie), France (tie), Netherlands (tie).
Overall, the US is the top-performing country in the subject rankings by a very large margin, accounting for 25.3% of all the ranked institutions in the 22 subjects. Next came the UK with 7.8%, China with 7.4%, Germany with 6.8% and Canada with 4.1%.

The top 10 countries accounted for 69.1% of the universities ranked in the 22 subjects, showing that there is a significant concentration of top-ranked universities among a small number of countries.

Among institutions, Harvard University holds the top spot in 10 of the 22 subject-specific rankings.

According to Best Global Universities, some universities demonstrate strength in a wide range of academic fields, appearing in all 22 subject rankings. These 14 institutions are located in Australia, Belgium, Canada and the US.

“The schools that rank the highest in the Best Global Universities rankings are those that emphasise academic research, including by partnering with international scholars to produce highly cited articles,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist at US News and World Report.

For the 2018 edition, US News and World Report made a slight change to the methodology to further emphasise international collaboration at universities by rewarding universities that author articles with researchers from different countries.

The Best Global Universities methodology – which is based on Web of Science data and metrics provided by Clarivate Analytics InCites – weighs factors that measure a university’s global and regional research reputation and academic research performance.

For the overall rankings, this includes bibliometric indicators such as publications, citations and international collaboration. Each subject ranking has its own methodology based on academic research performance and reputation in that specific area.

“For more than 30 years, US News has been committed to making higher education data more accessible to prospective students choosing a US university,” said Anita Narayan, managing editor of education at US News and World Report. “The Best Global Universities rankings similarly allow consumers to accurately evaluate and compare international schools to find the right fit for them, based on available data.”

Regions featured

Among the five regions featured, the top university remained the same in four of them, but in Asia the National University of Singapore elbowed out last year’s leader, the University of Tokyo, which dropped two places.

Among the African institutions evaluated, South Africa took the top four spots, with the University of Cape Town first, followed by the University of the Witwatersrand, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch University, followed by Egypt’s Cairo University.

South Africa and Egypt both had 11 institutions in the ranking, one more than Belgium, Finland and Portugal.

In Asia, the National University of Singapore came highest, followed by Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), the University of Tokyo (Japan), Tsinghua University (China) and Peking University (China).

In Australia-New Zealand, all five top spots were taken by Australia, led by the University of Melbourne. Next came the University of Sydney, followed by the University of Queensland Australia, Monash University, and a tie between Australian National University and University of New South Wales.

The UK took the four highest places achieved by universities in Europe, led by the University of Oxford, followed by the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and University College London, with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in fifth-highest place.

Among Latin American countries, the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil performed best, followed by Pontificia University Catolica de Chile, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and State University of Campinas (Brazil).

US News and World Report publishes numerical ranks for each of the ranking indicators – such as publications, total citations and global reputation – used in the overall ranking methodology to allow users to determine the exact position of each university relative to all other universities ranked for each indicator.

“Readers can therefore understand where an institution is stronger or weaker compared with other institutions in the rankings,” US News says.