Guest writer: John O’Leary, executive member of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board
What’s changed in this year’s QS World University Rankings? Get a snapshot of the main winners and losers this time around, and insights into major trends in the international higher education landscape.
Overall, the QS World University Rankings continue to be extremely stable, with only one university dropping out of the top 50 and four leaving the top 100. The volatility of some international university rankings has been a frequent source of criticism, but in the QS World University Rankings for 2013/14 the average movement among the top 100 universities is less than 3.5 places, down from 4.6 last year.
Nunzio Quacquarelli, founder and managing director of QS, said: “The extra stability in this year’s rankings will be good news for the countless students across the world who rely on them to narrow down their choices. As more and more people compete for places at the top universities, it is the responsibility of ranking organizations to ensure that what they produce is transparent and accurate. As the first global ranking to have been accredited by the International Ranking Expert Group, we are living up to that.”
US and UK universities continue to dominate
The top 10 universities in the QS World University Rankings 2013/2014 are, once again, all in either the US or UK.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) remains the top-ranked university, having reached number one for the first time last year. Next is Harvard, which topped the QS World University Rankings for the first six years in which they were published. After falling to third last year, Harvard has now moved back to second place at the expense of the UK’s University of Cambridge.
Cambridge, at third, is immediately followed by three more UK universities. University College London (UCL) stays in 4th, while Imperial College London climbs one place to 5th, overtaking Oxford University, now 6th.
Completing the top 10 are Stanford, Yale, the University of Chicago, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Princeton – the last two share 10th place.
More broadly, US and UK universities continue to dominate the top tier of the rankings, occupying 17 of the top 20 places. However, there is greater diversity beyond this. US universities represent less than a third of the top 100 universities and exactly a quarter of the top 200. Like last year, the UK has 19 universities in the top 100 and 30 in the top 200.
Resurgence for Continental European universities
After several years in the doldrums, Continental European universities are enjoying a period of resurgence. This is led by Switzerland, which now has two universities in the top 20, following a leap of 10 places by Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL). ETH Zurich is the highest-placed university outside the English-speaking world, having moved up to 12th.
The Netherlands has two more universities than last year in the top 100, and all six have improved their positions this year. Although Germany still has only Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in the top 50, eight of its 13 universities in the top 200 have gone up this year.
France has two universities in the top 50 and 19 in the top 400. While Italy still has no institutions in within the top 100, every one of its representatives in the top 400 has moved up this year, some by as much as 50 places.
In Scandinavia, Norway’s University of Oslo has climbed into the top 100 universities, while Denmark’s University of Copenhagen enters the top 50.
Mixed picture for universities in Asia
Elsewhere, the trends are less clear-cut. Some universities in Asia have continued their progress up the rankings. The National University of Singapore (NUS) has overtaken the University of Hong Kong to become the region’s highest-ranked institution, for example. However, no Asian university has yet entered the top 20, and there is little sign of the wholesale advance predicted by many commentators.
There are special circumstances in Hong Kong, where a double cohort of students has put the Special Administrative Region’s seven ranked universities at a temporary disadvantage. Meanwhile, only two of Japan’s 24 universities in the top 600 have gone up this year.
China’s universities, led by Peking University and Tsinghua University in the top 50, have fared better, but there are still only 11 Chinese universities in the top 400. There is also a mixed picture in South Korea, where some universities have fallen, but the top two (Seoul National University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) both making slight increases. In India, five Indian Institutes of Technology remain the country’s only representatives in the top 400.
Other notable changes worldwide
Australia still has seven universities in the top 100, but several of its lower-ranked institutions have dropped this year. The same is true in Canada, where Toronto has overtaken McGill to become the country’s highest ranked university for the first time since QS World University Rankings were launched in 2004.
The progress made by universities in the Middle East has not been maintained in the latest rankings, except in Israel, which now has three universities in the top 200. But there have been advances in Latin America, especially in Brazil, where ten universities are ranked for the first time.
Meanwhile, the wait for broader global recognition continues in Africa. The University of Cape Town has moved into the top 150, but the American University in Cairo is the only African university outside of South Africa in the top 500.
The published rankings tables allow users to sort and filter universities by region, subject area, and according to the different criteria used in creating the rankings.