Winners and losers in THE reputation rankings 2018

Universities in the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan lost some ground in the Top 100 of the Times Higher Education or THE World Reputation Rankings 2018, published last week. America and Singapore made gains and India clinched a place for the first time since 2011.

The Top 10 of the annual list, compiled from a global survey of more than 10,000 senior academics between January and March 2018, remains almost unchanged from last year, said THE in a release.

The only upset is the University of California, Los Angeles, which shot up from 13 last year to nine, ejecting the California Institute of Technology from the Top 10 list.

Harvard University is in first place for the eighth year in a row, followed by: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; University of Cambridge; University of Oxford; University of California, Berkeley; Princeton University; Yale University; University of California, Los Angeles; and University of Chicago.

There are 21 countries represented in what seems to actually be a Top 105, as there are 25 universities in the 81-100 group.

There are 44 American universities (up from 42 last year), and nine each from China (including Hong Kong) and the United Kingdom (down from 10). There are six institutions from Germany and five each from Japan and the Netherlands.

Switzerland, Canada, France, Australia and South Korea each have three universities on the list. There are two universities each from Singapore, Russia and Sweden, and one each from Belgium, Taiwan, Denmark, Israel, Finland and India – the Indian Institute of Science is in the 91-100 group.

North America and Europe

“The US continues to dominate the ranking, with eight institutions in the Top 10 and 44 institutions across the Top 100,” THE points out. Canada saw some gains, with its three institutions slightly up: the University of Toronto at number 22 (up from 24), the University of British Columbia at 38 (from 40) and McGill University at 41 (from 42).

“What is particularly striking is that the US has actually strengthened its position in the world, with more top 100 institutions and top institutions moving up the rankings this year – despite fears that the US is suffering a ‘Trump slump’ in terms of its global reputation,” said THE Editorial Director of Global Rankings Phil Baty.

“While we have seen evidence that some international students are seeing the US as a less attractive option, with declining applications, this data from the global academic community suggests the top US universities remain the most highly regarded in the world by a mile.”

Europe claimed 33 spots, with the UK, Germany and the Netherlands best represented.

The UK lost Durham University and several other UK universities witnessed slight declines on 2017: University College London dropped from 16 to joint 18, Imperial College London from 18 to 20, and the London School of Economics from 20 to 25.

Of Germany’s six universities in the Top 100, three declined in position, including leading institution LMU Munich which, said THE, dropped from 42 to 49. The tiny Netherlands did better, claiming five spots, up from four thanks to the entry of Wageningen University.

Baty said: “All UK universities have either fallen down the global pecking order this year or stayed static. This should give pause for serious thought as the country seeks to champion its status as ‘global Britain’ in a post-Brexit world.

“Particularly worrying is the decline of all London universities in this list.”

The survey revealed that some of Europe’s top universities were vulnerable to a changing global higher education order, Baty stated. “A university’s prestige in the global academic community – its ‘brand’ – is vital to attracting the talent needed to allow universities to thrive, as well as drawing in strategic partners, investment and indeed philanthropy.”
Asia-Pacific countries

Within Asia-Pacific, China and Japan are best represented. China has nine universities in the Top 100 – although THE lists six, separating out Hong Kong’s three Top 100 universities – while Japan has five universities (down from six last year).

While China’s top two universities – Tsinghua (14) and Peking (17) – retained their positions, Japan’s top two – Tokyo (13) and Kyoto (27) – both fell two places.

Baty said: “It seems that China’s relentless march up the global league tables has stalled – at least when it comes to the international prestige of its universities. After making major gains in recent years, both China’s top two universities, Peking and Tsinghua, have held steady this year, while other stars from mainland China have slipped.”

While continued investment and increased internationalisation would ensure China’s universities continued to strengthen, Baty argued, the survey showed how hard it was to break into the traditional global elite.

The new data demonstrated that Japan’s position as Asia’s top nation for higher education and research was “under serious threat”. “Tokyo remains Asia’s most prestigious university, judged by the global academic community, but its ranking has fallen from 8th in the world in 2011, to 13th today. Kyoto, Osaka and Tohoku universities have all seen a fall in their global standing in the reputation rankings this year too.”

THE described performance across the rest of the region as mixed: “Notably, Australia loses some ground.” While the University of Melbourne fell one place from 46 to joint 47, and the University of Sydney dropped from the 61-70 band to the 71-80 bracket, its third representative, Australian National University, held its position in the 61-70 band.

“With Japanese universities slipping and Chinese progress stalling this year, Singapore is the success story for Asia in the 2018 THE World Reputation Rankings,” said Baty.

“The National University of Singapore climbs three places to 24 – narrowing its distance from the top Chinese institutions – and Nanyang Technological University moves from the 81-90 band to the 51-60 bracket.”

India will be happy that its flagship Indian Institute of Science entered the list, but will also be disappointed at an otherwise poor showing, as will be Africa and Latin America.

The survey

THE World Reputation Rankings, the publication says, use the world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey. The full methodology can be found here.

“The Academic Reputation Survey, available in 15 languages, uses United Nations data as a guide to ensure that the response coverage is as representative of world scholarship as possible. It is also evenly spread across academic disciplines,” THE says.

Administered by Elsevier, the survey “targets experienced, published scholars, who offer their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines and at institutions with which they are familiar”.