US declines across all metrics in latest global rankings

The United States declines across all metrics despite remaining the world’s pre-eminent higher education system and despite Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) celebrating 11 years as the world’s best university in the latest QS World University Rankings, released on Wednesday.

In the top 10 there is a little movement, with the University of Oxford (fourth) dropping two places while the University of Cambridge moves up one place to second. But there are no new entrants.

At the top is MIT (US), followed by the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), Stanford University (US), the University of Oxford (UK), Harvard University (US), the California Institute of Technology (US), Imperial College London (UK), UCL (UK), ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and the University of Chicago (US).

The US continues to decline broadly across its 201 ranked universities with more than 50% dropping down the table – representative of a trend that has persisted for several years due largely to rapidly growing global competition, QS reports.

Of these 201 universities, 29 improve (14.4%), 44 remain stable (22%), but 103 decline (51%). On the plus side, 25 are newly ranked (14% increase year on year).

Ben Sowter, QS senior vice president, said: “MIT’s success takes the spotlight as the world’s pre-eminent university and the US shines as the world’s superlative higher education system.

“However, the American higher education system is declining across all QS’s metrics. This year, there is not a single indicator in which more than half of US ranked universities improve – illustrating that US world hegemony in higher education is starting to wane, due to encroaching excellence from abroad.”

The QS World University Rankings 2023, the 19th edition of the rankings, is the largest ever, with 1,418 institutions across 100 locations, up from 1,300 last year.

The results account for the distribution and performance of 16.4 million academic papers published between 2016 and 2020 and the 117.8 million citations received by those papers; they also account for the expert opinions of over 151,000 academic faculty and over 99,000 employers.

UK and Canada decline

Among the other takeaways in this year’s rankings, the United Kingdom and Canada both reflect a pattern of declines in placings. The UK sees 48 out of 90 universities decline, while only 10 improve, although on the plus side, 55% of its research involves global collaborations versus the global average of 20%.

Canada sees 20 out of 31 universities drop, while McGill University (31st in the world) is the new national leader.

Australia retains five top-50 universities, yet is stagnating, with as many universities improving as declining.

China’s impressive improvement

China (mainland), the third most-represented higher education system with 71 universities – only the US (201) and the UK (90) have more – becomes home to two world top-15 universities for the first time, with Peking University 12th and Tsinghua University 14th, surging six and three places respectively and both achieving their highest place ever since the rankings began in 2004.

Sowter said: “No higher education system has improved as impressively as China’s has over the past decade. Until 2018 there was not a single Chinese university in the top 20. Now, due to concerted government investment and strong institutional strategising, China’s universities enjoy global recognition and world-leading research productivity.

“The latest milestone achieved by Chinese higher education offers more evidence that the Double First Class initiative is moving successfully towards fulfilment of its lofty ambitions.”

Top Indian institutions rise

Elsewhere in Asia, India has a good year with more improvements than falls and all top nine institutions rising. Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia also improve while Japan and Thailand decline. Asia’s top university is the National University of Singapore (11th).

ETH Zurich has remained continental Europe’s best university for 15 consecutive years. France sees its merged universities ascend in the table, with Université PSL (26th) breaking into the top 30.

Universidad de Buenos Aires (67th) is confirmed as Latin America’s best. But, hampered by low research impact scores, more of the continent’s universities fall than rise.

In the Arab region the top university – King Abdulaziz University – reaches a record high of 106th.

For Africa the leader is the University of Cape Town (237th), but only five of the continent’s universities are among the top 500.

QS uses six indicators to compile the ranking. Academic Reputation and Employer Reputation are based on survey responses from more than 150,000 academics and 99,000 employers. Citations per Faculty measures research impact while Faculty per Student Ratio is used as a proxy for teaching capacity. International Faculty Ratio and International Student Ratio are used to record a university’s level of internationalisation.

This year QS has also added two new unweighted performance lenses: Employment Outcomes assesses the employability of students, while the International Research Network analyses international research collaboration and knowledge transfer.

Key results by region – Africa, Arab region, Asia, Australasia, Europe including EU countries and the UK, Latin America and North America are listed below.


The entry into this year’s rankings of the Future University in Egypt brings Africa’s total to 32. Of these, five improve their rank year on year, 10 decline and 16 stay the same.

Egypt is the most-represented African country in the rankings with 14 listed institutions. Its highest-ranked institution is the American University in Cairo which improves by 29 positions to rank 416th globally. This is partly due to it achieving the highest score in Africa for the proportion of international faculty and placing 129th globally in the International Faculty Ratio metric.

South Africa’s top university and the continental leader remains the University of Cape Town. It ranks 237th, despite falling for a third consecutive year, and enjoys the continent's highest international renown, according to QS’s Employer Reputation and Academic Reputation surveys, placing 166th and 190th globally in both the Employer Reputation and Academic Reputation indicators.

By contrast, the University of Johannesburg gains 32 positions to rank 412th globally. This movement is underpinned by a high degree of internationalisation, both in collaborative research and the International Student Ratio and International Faculty Ratio categories.

Tunisia is the only other African nation to make it into the top 1,000, with Université de Sousse ranking in the 751-800 band. It commands Africa’s highest Faculty per Student Ratio, ranking 176th globally by this metric.

Outside of South Africa, Kenya is home to the highest-ranked Sub-Saharan university with the University of Nairobi falling in the 1,001-1,400 band. It maintains its rank year on year but shows improvement in Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation and Faculty per Student.

Sowter said: “For most of the continent, further improvement is hampered by low scores in our research impact metric: beyond South Africa’s top institutions, no African university ranks among the world’s top 600 for research impact. Beyond this, improving employer recognition is also a strategic priority necessary for enhancing the performance of African institutions.”

Arab Region

In total, 75 Arab universities are represented in the rankings, five more than last year. Of these, 19 improve and 13 decline.

Sowter said: “The Arab region countries continue to assert themselves and their universities on the global stage. This year's rankings shine a light on more Arabic institutions than ever before.”

Khalifa University of Science and Technology is the top-ranked university in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), ranking 181st, globally. It commands the highest Faclty per Student Ratio in the Arab region and is the UAE’s best institution for research according to Citations per Faculty.

In Qatar, Qatar University improves by 16 positions to rank 208th. It makes significant gains in Academic and Employer Reputation, Citations per Faculty, and International Student Ratio. Most prominently, it climbs 349 ranks, globally, in Academic Reputation.

The Arab region’s highest-ranked university, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, improves for the eighth consecutive year to its highest ever rank of 106th. It boasts the region’s highest Academic and Employer Reputation, coming 167th and 94th in the world by these indicators.

Lebanon is home to six of the Arab region’s 20 highest-ranked universities – joint highest alongside the UAE. Its top university is the American University of Beirut in 252nd spot.

The Arab region boasts one of the world’s highest International Faculty ratios. It is home to all 10 of the world’s top-10 institutions in this metric while more than 50% of its universities rank in the world’s top 100. Nine of the top 10 belong to the UAE, including Al Ain University which takes the number one spot.

Kuwait is home to the only other top-10 university in this metric with the American University of the Middle East (701-750 globally) which places third worldwide for International Faculty.

A similar yet less profound trend can be seen in International Student Ratio, with five of the world’s top 10 belonging to the Arab region. Four of these are based in the UAE while the world’s number one is the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia.

Egypt is the only Arabic-speaking country on the African continent to place in the world’s top 500 with the American University in Cairo which ranks 416th.

Latin America

Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) is named Latin America’s best university for a record eighth consecutive year. It places 67th, regaining ground lost in last year’s QS rankings.

In total, 190 Latin American universities across 18 locations are represented in the rankings, 39 more institutions than last year. Of these, 28 improve their rank, 33 decline and 90 remain the same. UBA’s improvement is indicative of a broader trend among Latin America’s highest-ranked.

Sowter said: “The 2022 World University Rankings offers an indication that Latin America’s best universities are enjoying improved recognition among academics and employers.

“While this is undoubtedly promising, it remains true that overall improvements will be limited until Latin American institutions see a higher proportion of research published in high-impact journals, and garner further recognition by the academic community.”

He added: “A blueprint for this should emphasise high levels of internationalisation – in faculty, students and cross-border research. With QS consistently recording low international faculty ratios for the continent, remedying this through strategy and policy designed to attract talented academics from abroad is a necessary first step.”

Mexico’s top university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, climbs one position into 104th. It enjoys a high degree of renown among international academics, coming 32nd in the world, according to QS’s Academic Reputation survey.

Brazil is the most-represented nation in Latin America with 35 listed institutions, outperforming Mexico with 32. It is also the continent’s best performing location for research. Universidade de São Paulo is the nation’s top-ranked university in 115th.

Colombia is the joint third most represented Latin American country, alongside Argentina, with 25 listed institutions. Its highest-ranked university is Universidad de los Andes in 236th which commands the location’s highest regard among employers, according to QS’s Employer Reputation survey, and is home to Colombia’s highest International Faculty Ratio.

Two Latin American nations debut in this year’s rankings: the Dominican Republic enters with Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo and Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (801-1,000 and 1,201-1,400 respectively) while Guatemala sees Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala enter the table in the 1,201-1,400 bracket.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile is Chile’s highest-ranked university, coming in at 121st globally, partly due to its high reputation among employers for which it is 19th in the world according to the Employer Reputation indicator.

Argentina boasts an excellent International Student Ratio, indicating that it attracts talent from around the world. The country is home to Latin America’s top three universities in this metric with Universidad de Palermo taking the continent’s top spot, coming 67th globally.


The National University of Singapore is confirmed the regional leader for the fifth consecutive year while China’s Peking University and Tsinghua University are Asia’s second and third best universities. Japan’s University of Tokyo is sixth regionally.

Asia’s top 10 are the National University of Singapore (11th), followed by Peking University (12th); Tsinghua University (14th); Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (19th); University of Hong Kong (21st); University of Tokyo (23rd); Seoul National University, Korea (29th); Fudan University, China mainland (34th); Kyoto University, Japan (36th); and Chinese University of Hong Kong (38th).

Among the Asian countries and territories, Japan has the highest number (nine) of universities ranking among the world’s top 200, the second joint highest (10) among the top 300 and the third highest (15) among the world’s top 500.


Of China’s 71 ranked universities, 24 rank higher than last year, 20 rank lower, 14 maintain the same rank, and 13 are new entrants.

China claims the largest share of ranked universities in Asia and is home to two of the world’s top-15 universities, five top-50, 13 top-300 and 28 top-500 universities.

According to QS, the main reason for the continued rise of mainland China’s universities is improvement in QS’s measure of research impact: Citations per Faculty. In this indicator, 37 Chinese universities have improved their performance over the last year, while 21 have recorded drops.

Remarkably, 18 Chinese universities are among the world’s top 100 for research impact. Only the United States has a larger share (22).

China’s systemic improvement in research performance is sufficient to counterbalance consistent drops in both of QS’s reputational indicators, QS reports. Forty-seven out of 71 Chinese universities record lower year-on-year performance for Academic Reputation, while 43/71 record a lower score for Employer Reputation.

Peking University achieves mainland China’s best score – 99.3/100 – for Academic Reputation, and another four universities make the top-100 in this metric.

QS’s Ben Sowter said: “While the excellence of China’s research programme is beyond doubt, there are still areas in which its universities can become more competitive.

“In particular, working with industry to prepare students for the 21st century workplace is essential if Chinese graduates are to improve their regard among employers. Through research impact, higher education transforms lives – but it also does so by enabling students to shine in their future careers.”

He said China has successfully undertaken transformative reform before.

“It now needs to deliver the skills needed for a digital economy, while fostering lifelong learning. An estimated up to one-third of the global occupational transitions needed for the future of work may happen in China. If China gets this right, best practices and models could offer a helpful reference point to other economies.”

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s performance in this year’s rankings is positive. Of its seven ranked institutions, four improve and three decline. It continues to enjoy one of the strongest higher education systems in the world, boasting five universities within the world’s top 100 – the University of Hong Kong (21st), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (38th), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (down six places to 40th), City University of Hong Kong (54th) and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (65=).

Hong Kong is home to an intensely international higher education ecosystem. Six of its universities place in the world’s top 100 for International Faculty Ratio, including five in the top 50. A similar yet less profound trend is displayed in International Student Ratio, in which three institutions are ranked in the top 50.

However, it has experienced a decline in both of QS’s reputational indicators, based on the opinion of international academics and employers surveyed, raising questions over “the nature and extent to which it continues to produce collaborative research and nurture its international reputation,” Sowter said.


This year’s QS rankings feature 41 Indian universities, with 12 rising, 10 falling places and, 12 remaining stable. Seven are new entries.

The Indian Institute of Science (155th globally) is the new national leader. Remarkably, it is also the global leader in the Citations per Faculty indicator, which QS uses to evaluate the impact of the research.

Furthermore, IISc Bengaluru is the fastest rising South Asian university among the QS World University Rankings’ top 200, having gained 31 places year on year.

All the featured Indian institutes of technology (IIT) improve their standing, reflecting the strength and success of the Indian public technological research university model.

Also, five of the declared public Institutions of Eminence attain a higher rank than in the previous edition (IIS, IITB, IITD, IITM, and IIT-KGP), while two decline (the University of Delhi and the University of Hyderabad), and one is unchanged (Banaras Hindu University).

The University of Calcutta (801-1,000) boasts the highest percentage of female students (63%), followed by the University of Mumbai (1,001-1,200) with 57%.

Amity University (1,001-1,200) employs the highest percentage of female faculty (58%), followed by the University of Mumbai with 56%.

Sowter said QS’s data suggests that the Indian higher education sector still struggles to provide adequate teaching capacity. “Further expansion of provision – both within universities and across the sector as a whole – will be necessary if India is to continue reaching new heights.”

But he added that new frameworks developed under the National Education Policy 2020 “should radically transform India’s higher education”.

“Among these, the multi-modal education framework is instrumental in taking education to remote and inaccessible parts of the country and partially addressing the exponentially rising demand for university places in the largest democracy in the world.”


Among Japan’s 50 ranked universities, 19 have declined in rank (38%), 11 have risen (22%) and 18 have neither risen nor declined (36%). There are two new inclusions.

The University of Tokyo maintains its 23rd place, Kyoto University (36th) drops three places and the Tokyo Institute of Technology (55th) rises one place.

Sowter said: “The major trend contributing to Japanese falls is declining research performance, which is the result of two decades of under-investment in the country’s intellectual capital – the number of PhD students in Japan is almost half its 2003 total.

“One could draw a sharp distinction between Japan and China, the latter of which has been relentlessly increasing its number of doctorates.”


The 2023 QS World University Rankings see the National University of Singapore (NUS) confirmed as the continent’s leading institution for the fifth year running. NUS has maintained the same rank (11th) since the 15th edition of the rankings.

For the past seven editions, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has been either the leading Asian university (2018), the joint leader (2020) or the second best regional institution. But this year a slight drop of 2.4 points (from 90.8 to 88.4), means a seven-spot fall to 19th position.

The third-ranked local institution, Singapore Management University, dropped five bands and now features among the 561-570 group.

Sowter nevertheless described Singapore’s top two universities as being still “the finest higher education hub outside Europe and the United States”.

South Korea

South Korea is the third most represented country in the Asia region, a position in which it ties with India, with 41 universities ranked. This year 15 rise, 10 decline, and 14 stay the same, plus there are two new entrants.

The country has more top-200 universities (8) than China (mainland) (7), as many top-300 universities as Japan (10) and the second largest number of top-500 universities (17) in Asia: only China (mainland) has more with 28.

Seoul National University (29th) rises six places, achieving its highest rank position since the inception of the rankings, after improving its performance in both of QS’s reputational indicators, and in the teaching capacity indicator Faculty/Student Ratio. SNU is now among the world’s top 30 universities.

Yonsei University has risen for the third consecutive year and attains its highest-ever position in the history of the QS World University Rankings. It places 73rd – six ranks higher than last year. Over the last year, it has improved its standing among academics, and in terms of employer recognition.

Conversely, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) drops, albeit slightly, for the third consecutive time due to a decline in four of the six indicators.

Sowter said South Korea is home to four of the world’s 30 top universities for research impact, a “remarkable achievement”.

But he warned that this year’s edition reveals a rather uniform downward trend for Korean universities in this metric.

“The trend needs to be contrasted strategically. Nurturing innovation and empowering cross research collaborations is essential to boost global competitiveness.”



Australia has five of the world’s top-50 universities and this year has achieved new heights in the Citation per Faculty indicator – which QS uses to measure the impact and influence of the research produced – with 71% of ranked universities improving in this crucial metric.

However, the country suffers declines in recognition from global employers and academics and struggles to compete for teaching capacity, with only three universities among the world’s top 500 for Faculty per Student Ratio.

Following two years of closed borders, 79% of its ranked universities saw their proportion of international faculty drop, while 63% of the ranked universities saw their proportion of international students fall.

All five bar one of Australia’s highest-ranked universities slightly dropped compared to last year.

Australian National University (30th) remains among the global top 30 but drops three places, as does the University of Sydney (41st). The University of New South Wales (45th) falls two places and the University of Queensland (50th) slips three places. But the University of Melbourne rises from 37th to 33rd.

Sowter said: “Australia’s performance in our rankings this year tells a story of stagnation more than a decline, despite the fairly drastic impact COVID isolation had on the higher education sector.

“The fall in international students’ enrolments is starting to recover slowly, with over 50,000 students arriving in Australia since the start of the year, another 50,000 who have applied for a student visa.

“Yet another 120,000 appear to be still abroad, with some, such as many Chinese ones, who cannot leave their country for ongoing border closures or lockdowns amid surging COVID-19 cases. Some experts estimate that it will likely take five years to return to the 2019 levels.”

He said the loss of Chinese and Indian students, especially, will present a financial threat to institutions and “jeopardise the intellectual diversity and exchange that are causing Australia’s institutions to thrive”.

However, on the positive side, the most improved university in the rankings is La Trobe University (316th), which has risen an extraordinary 46 places due principally to improved performance in the Citations per Faculty indicator.

QS notes that La Trobe University has grown its research output by 37.7% since 2016, nearly three times the national average (13.1%). Half of its research is in medicine, which constitutes 44.8% of research output in this field. This includes highly-cited work on disability management and cancer.

New Zealand

QS ranks eight New Zealand universities. Of these, six decline and two improve, continuing the negative trend seen in last year’s rankings in which five declined.

There is a broad decline in international reputation but improving research impact – five of its universities improve in Citations per Faculty by an average of 51 places – and New Zealand remains intensely international both in terms of students and faculty. Six of its universities place in the world’s top 100 for International Faculty Ratio, including two in the top 50.

Sowter said: “New Zealand is not alone in its decline in this year’s rankings. Many nations have experienced similar struggles in teaching capacity and reputation – the reasons for this are manifold but can be traced, at least in part, to the rising quality of global competitors.”

New Zealand’s highest-ranked university, the University of Auckland, retains its place in the world’s top 100, making it New Zealand’s only representative in this tier. It commands the country’s highest degree of international renown among academics and employers in which it places 65th and 186th globally, according to QS’s data.

Lincoln University is one of New Zealand’s two improved universities. It climbs by four positions into 368th. This is underpinned by the nation’s highest Faculty per Student Ratio, indicating small class sizes. However, it places 352nd in the world in this metric, highlighting a weak point for New Zealand’s higher education.

The University of Waikato is New Zealand’s only other institution to improve year on year, climbing an impressive 42 ranks to place 331st in the world. This is due to improvements in three of QS’s indicators, most prominently in research, in which it is New Zealand’s best university, according to Citations per Faculty.


Among EU countries, France enjoys the most top-tier universities in this year’s university rankings with four institutions in the top 100 followed by Germany with three. The EU’s top spots are occupied by French merged universities Université PSL (26th) and Institut Polytechnique de Paris (48th).

Overall, EU universities have declined. QS ranks 312 EU universities. Of these, 133 decline, 100 maintain their rank or band, 67 improve and 12 rank for the first time

Fourteen EU universities make the world’s top 100.

Unsurprisingly, the EU commands an outstanding degree of international renown, QS reports. Twenty universities place in the world’s top 100 for Academic Reputation. However, no universities make it into the world’s top 30, indicating an area of slight weakness considering the investment, research output, and global collaboration of EU universities, particularly in the top tier.

Germany commands the highest renown among academics (Academic Reputation). The two highest-ranked universities in this indicator are German as well as five among the EU’s top 10.

The EU’s recognition among employers (Employer Reputation) is stronger, with two top-20 universities. Again, France dominates in this area with all three of the EU’s highest-ranked universities being French.

One of the EU’s strongest suits is teaching capacity, measured in Faculty per Student Ratio.

The EU is world class in this metric but, interestingly, Denmark shines. Both the University of Copenhagen and Technical University of Denmark score 100 in this indicator – the EU’s only institutions to do so. The EU makes up 20% of the world’s top-100 universities in Faculty per Student Ratio.

The EU has published some 25% of the world’s total research output since 2016 and generated 30% of the world’s citations. Its primary field of research is life sciences and medicine – specifically medicine, which constitutes 47% of its research in this field.

French universities produce the most research of all EU countries with Université Paris Cité, Université Paris-Saclay and Sorbonne Université leading the way in terms of sheer volume.

However, in Citations per Faculty, the University of Amsterdam is the EU’s best. It has produced a massive amount of medical research over the past five years and demonstrates a high level of international collaboration – some 58% of its published research was produced alongside cross-border partners over the past five years, nearly triple the global average.

Unsurprisingly, EU universities are highly international. Nine universities place in the top 100 for International Faculty Ratio. However, none of its universities place in the world’s top 40 with the EU leader, Eindhoven University of Technology, placing 45th. Despite this, five universities achieve scores of 100 in this indicator.

Perhaps more impressive is the EU’s level of international students (International Student Ratio), again somewhat unsurprisingly. Two universities place in the world’s top 20 – IE University in Spain is not only the leader among EU universities but is among the leaders in the world for this metric in which it places fifth.

Of course, one leading European country, the UK, is no longer in the EU and it is a higher education and research powerhouse in its own right. Where the EU has 14 universities in the top 100, the UK has 17. And where the EU has 16 universities in the top 100 for academic reputation, the entire EU only has 25% more with 20.


QS lists nine Belgian universities, seven of which rank in the world’s top 500, while three place in the top 200. Of its total ranked institutions, eight decline and one improves.

Belgium’s top-ranked university is KU Leuven despite it slipping by six places year on year to 76th. It commands the country’s highest international renown, according to QS’s Academic and Employer Reputation indicators, in which it ranks 58th and 156th globally.

KU Leuven is also Belgium’s top university for research impact, despite dropping 25 positions to 54th globally in Citations per Faculty. Its primary research area is medicine. However, Belgium experiences the steepest decline in this metric with all its universities falling by an average of 39 positions.


The University of Copenhagen places 82nd in the world, retaining Scandinavia’s top spot despite a three-position drop year on year. But all five ranked Danish institutions decline and there is a steep decline in terms of international reputation, although there is a high teaching capacity, according to the Faculty per Student Ratio.

The University of Copenhagen is also home to Scandinavia’s highest Faculty per Student Ratio: 17th in the world. The Technical University of Denmark is the region’s second highest-ranked university for this metric, coming 20th and demonstrating a national strong suit in terms of teaching capacity.


Thirty-two French universities are included in the global table. Of these, 13 improve, 10 remain stable and nine decline. This includes four top-100 ranked institutions, making it Continental Europe’s best higher education system by this measure.

France’s merged universities are continuing their upward trend.

France’s highest-ranked institution, Université PSL, which formally received its university status by merger in 2019, rises 18 places to rank 26th in the world. It enjoys France’s highest Faculty per Student Ratio, placing 24th, globally, by this metric.

Sorbonne University, also established by merger in 2018, rises 12 places and ranks joint 60th globally. Its rise in the rankings is underpinned by a strong academic reputation, banking France’s highest score in QS’s Academic Reputation Survey to place 44th globally in this measure.

Université Paris-Saclay goes from strength to strength. Established by merger in 2019, it gains 17 positions to place 69th. Its progress was highlighted in the 2022 QS World University Rankings by Subject, in which it improved 100% of its listed subjects by an average of 51 places – a positive signal for the university hailed as France’s answer to MIT.

Sowter said: “Our data shows France is one of the world’s most intensely international collaborators, with two of the world’s top-5 universities for [the unweighted indicator of] International Research being French. This is the extent of global collaboration required if the government hopes to achieve its lofty aspirations for the global competitiveness of its higher education system.”

He said the government has made the resources available to achieve these goals, recently increasing the budget for the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation for 2022 by more than €700 million (US$735 million) – and the progress of some of the country’s newest institutions indicates that France’s commitment is “starting to pay off”.


QS ranks 46 German institutions. Of these 16 improve their position year on year and 24 decline while six remain stable. However, it remains one of the world’s elite higher education systems with more than 60% of its universities placing in the top 500, including 11 in the top 200.

The Technical University of Munich is Germany’s highest ranked institution in 49th place globally. Its improvement is driven by improvements in three of four of QS’s indicators. Most prominently, it makes gains in International Student Ratio in which it climbs 26 positions and is the national leader in this metric.

Germany’s second highest ranked university is Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, which also shows improvement. It climbs five positions to 59th. It also improves in three of QS’s six indicators, achieving the most gains in Faculty per Student Ratio. It also commands Germany’s highest Academic Reputation, in which it places 37th in the world.

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg places 340th in the world. However, it is Germany’s top university for research according to Citations per Faculty in which it places 88th in the world. It shows a particular research prevalence in medicine, in which it has produced 18.3% of its total research output over the past five years.

Sowter said: “Though German universities are not yet enjoying systematic improvements, they are characterised by relatively high levels of teaching capacity, a trend that continues in this edition of the rankings.

“Indeed, 11 of the world’s top 200 scores for our Faculty/Student Ratio indicator are achieved by German institutions – three more than last year.”

He said as students express increasing concern about the extent to which they will enjoy a personalised, nurturing teaching experience, the emphasis that Germany has placed on low student/faculty ratios is a “major inducement for talented individuals to study in the country”.


The University of Amsterdam retains the Netherlands’ top spot despite slipping three positions into 58th. It is not alone. Of Netherlands’ total of 13 ranked universities, all have declined. However, all its institutions place in the world’s top 400, giving it one of the strongest higher education ecosystems in Continental Europe.

The University of Amsterdam commands the highest academic renown in the country, placing 62nd in the world in QS’s Academic Reputation metric. Three Dutch universities are among the world’s top 100 for Academic Reputation, highlighting a national strong suit in this indicator.

The University of Amsterdam is also the nation’s best university for research, according to Citations per Faculty. It places 29th in the world in this metric and shows a particular research prevalence in life sciences and medicine which constitutes 57% of its research output over the past five years.

The Netherlands is intensely collaborative in terms of International Research with 62% of its scholarly output over the past five years produced alongside international collaborators. QS’s unweighted International Research indicator places six of its universities among the world’s top 100 for cross-border research.

The Netherlands does make some progress in this year’s rankings, specifically in internationalisation: nine of its universities make gains in International Faculty Ratio while six see improvements in terms of the International Student Ratio.


Sweden is the best performing Nordic country in this year’s rankings, but it has also struggled, with six of its eight ranked universities declining, one staying the same and just one rising.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology takes Sweden’s top spot and Scandinavia’s second. It maintains its rank year on year, placing 89th. It does not achieve a national highest rank in any of QS’s indicators but displays a high performance, placing second in four out of the six criteria.

Lund University is Sweden’s second highest-ranked university and the third highest among Scandinavian countries, despite falling eight positions to place 95th in the world. It commands Sweden’s highest renown among academics according to QS’s Academic Reputation and Employer Reputation surveys. It places 92nd in the world in this indicator.

Sweden sees broad declines across indicators. Most notably, its reputational indicators see the most significant drop with all universities declining in Academic and Employer Reputation. However, the country shows marked improvement in its internationalisation: six universities improve their ratio of International Student while four increase in International Faculty.

Despite drops in the rankings, Sweden is home to six universities in the world’s top 200, including two in the world’s top 100. This is the highest number among all Nordic countries in both these tiers.


Switzerland remains home to Continental Europe’s best university, but among the 10 Swiss universities ranked, eight are in the world’s top 250 while three place in the global top 100.

However, of its total ranked institutions, eight decline in rank. Only the University of Basel improves while USI – Università della Svizzera italiana – remains stable.

Switzerland’s top-ranked university is ETH Zurich for a 15th consecutive year, despite slipping one position to ninth. It commands the country’s best international reputation, placing 18th and 51st globally in Academic and Employer Reputation indicators.

EPFL is Switzerland’s and Continental Europe’s second highest-ranked institution. It places joint 16th in the world. It is the country’s best university for research according to Citations per Faculty, placing 15th in the world by this metric.

It shows a particular research prevalence in engineering, specifically petroleum engineering, which constitutes just under 30% of its research output in the field.

Sowter noted that according to Switzerland's Federal Statistics Office, 57% of students are reporting difficulties with studies, ranging from stress to lack of interaction with staff.

“Our metric on Faculty per Student Ratio seems to support this view, with every university dropping in this indicator.”

United Kingdom

The UK remains the world’s second most successful higher education system, according to the rankings. However, of the 90 British universities ranked, 10 have improved their position over the last year, 48 have declined in rank and 32 remain stable within their position or band.

At specific indicator level, the ranked universities declined in every one, but by the most in the Faculty/Student indicator – a proxy for teaching capacity – and the least for the proportion of International Students:

Academic Reputation (40% weighting): 74 institutions down, 12 up, four the same.

Employer Reputation (10%): 77 institutions down, two up, 11 the same.

Faculty/Student Ratio (20%): 83 institutions up, six down and one the same.

Citations per Faculty (20%): 70 institutions down, 20 up and none the same.

International Faculty Ratio (5%): 71 institutions down, 18 up and one the same.

International Students Ratio (5%): 49 down, 38 up and three the same.

Despite these declines, seven UK universities made the top-50 institutions for Academic Reputation, based on the opinion of 150,000 academics, with Oxford coming second worldwide and Cambridge third.

Ten UK universities rank among the world’s top 150 in QS’s indicator of research impact Citations per Faculty. Interestingly, a whopping 12 UK universities appear among the top 50 in the second new, and this year unweighted, performance lens introduced by QS, the International Research Network metric, in which UCL is the national leader.

The leading UK universities’ research impact score is the result of high levels of global collaboration, which is reflected in high publication rates in the world’s highest-impact academic journals, as well as in QS’s International Research Network lens.

Data from QS’s research partners at Elsevier Scopus shows that:

• Currently, approximately 20% of the world’s research is done as a result of global collaboration. For the UK, however, this figure is much higher, with 55% of its research involving international engagement.

• 40% of the UK’s research papers are published in the top 10% of academic journals by impact – four times the global average (10%).

Sowter said: “Perhaps no British research success story has captured the public imagination to the extent that the University of Oxford’s role in developing the ChAdOx1 [COVID-19] vaccine has – and quite rightly.

“Only UCL has produced a higher number of academic research papers over the past five years, and no British university’s research has enjoyed a higher impact, with almost 1.5 million citations yielded on Oxford’s papers.”

The indicator in which the UK universities performed best in this edition of the rankings is the one measuring the proportion of International Students. Twenty of the top 50 are British institutions. The next best performers in this metric are Australia, with 10 top-50 universities, and the United Arab Emirates with eight.

The popularity of the UK as a study destination continues to grow, with a reported 8.7% increase for the academic year 2020-21 compared to the previous year. The objective of enrolling 600,000 international students per year as stated by the International Education Strategy: Global potential, global growth was achieved earlier this year, a decade earlier than expected.

Similarly, the UK performs well for the proportion of International Faculty indicator, with 14 of its institutions featuring among the world’s top 100.

North America


Canada struggles in the 2023 rankings after making long-awaited gains last year. Of its 31 ranked universities, three improve and 20 decline while five remain stable. Three enter the rankings for the first time. Last year’s rankings saw the inverse trend when 16 improved and seven declined.

QS analysis finds Canada is highly international in terms of faculty, students and collaboration, but “struggles in terms of research, despite a high level of international collaboration”.

Nevertheless it is home to three of the world’s top-100 universities, putting it joint ninth in the world by this measure, alongside Germany and Switzerland.

Canada’s top three are McGill (31st), the University of Toronto or UT (34th) and the University of British Columbia (47th). Notably, McGill outperforms the other two in research: it comes 203rd globally in Citations per Faculty while UT and the University of British Colombia come 313th and 332nd.

Sowter said Canada has been steady, if somewhat stagnant, for the past five years. But it “stands out for its international scope and has seen international mobility rise steadily over several years. In 2019 around 16% of its student population came to study from abroad.

“This record is particularly impressive when assessing student access from lower-middle income nations, who now compose 42% of Canada’s international student population – far higher than the OECD average.”

United States

The US continues to decline broadly across its 201 ranked universities with more than 50% dropping down the table – representative of a trend that has persisted for several years due largely to rapidly growing global competition.

Of these 201 universities:

• 29 improve (14.4%)
• 44 remain stable (22%)
• 103 decline (51%)
• 25 are newly ranked (14% increase year on year).

Sowter said: “This year, there is not a single indicator in which more than half of US ranked universities improve – illustrating that US world hegemony in higher education is starting to wane, due to encroaching excellence from abroad.”

However, he said the US remains an outstanding higher education system, particularly for research and advancement of collective human knowledge.

“Just such an advancement was recently achieved by astronomers at universities and research institutions across the United States and, indeed, across the world when the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first-ever image of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy,” he said.

The United States continues to lead the way globally in terms of research. Data from QS’s bibliometric partner Scopus/SciVal Elsevier show that the US is the world leader for number of citations and research output between 2016 and 2020.

The US is home to eight of the world’s top-10 institutions for Citations per Faculty. Both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley break into the top 10 this year. In addition, Yeshiva University lands just shy of the top 20 after a huge leap in this metric takes it from 75th to 21st.

Harvard University unsurprisingly takes the top spot: no university in the world produces more research in terms of sheer scholarly output nor has any university generated more citations between 2016 and 2020, QS reports.

Harvard has produced some 165,201 papers over this period or some 5% of US’s total output. Harvard’s predominant field of research is in life sciences and medicine – specifically medicine, which constitutes 63.1% of its research output in the field. Its 2016 work in cancer, tumours and heart disease has had a particular impact.

However, the US performs less well in QS’s newly introduced unweighted performance lens, International Research Network, with only one university placing in the world’s top 10.

This performance reflects the US’s comparatively small proportion of collaborative research – 34% since 2016 – significantly greater than the global average, but significantly trailing highly collaborative nations such as the UK which produces more than half its scholarly output with international partners.

While US universities maintain an outstanding global reputation among academics and employers, they are not performing so well on international student and faculty trends, with only three US universities ranking in the world’s top 100 for International Faculty Ratio, although 42 universities are moving up the rankings, QS reports.

Contrastingly, seven universities rank in the top 100 for International Student Ratio but the US experiences a more significant decline in this metric, with only 15 universities improving year on year.

All data for this article has been supplied by QS.