Which universities are leading the research into COVID-19? | Top Universities

Which universities are leading the research into COVID-19?

By Craig O

Updated April 8, 2021 Updated April 8, 2021
  • United States, Mainland China, United Kingdom, Italy and India are the five study destinations which are leading the way with COVID-19 research. 
  • The top five academic papers on COVID-19 were all published in Mainland China and involve cooperation with Chinese hospitals and universities. 
  • The US has the largest number of academic papers on the subject, with many published in the influential New England Journal of Medicine.

Following our reveal of the world’s top medical schools in 2021 – part of the QS World University Rankings by Subject – we have taken a look at recent research activity at universities around the world, to see which institutions are at the forefront of the global research effort into COVID-19. 

Using data compiled in collaboration with our research partners Elsevier Scopus, we were able to identify some of the top medical schools which are producing the most cited scientific papers into the virus. 

Mainland China 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it was the first location to encounter the virus, Mainland China is home to several universities which are leading the global research efforts. 11 percent of the global research into COVID-19, as indexed by Elsevier Scopus, originates from China. While this will be partly due to the fact Chinese researchers have had more time to study the virus than other nations, the speed and quality of the research being done at universities such as Tsinghua University, Peking University and Wuhan University is impressive. 

The most widely cited academic paper on COVID-19 was a multi-author paper published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals. The three Chinese universities mentioned above, in addition to the Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Peking Union Medical College, were all collaborators on this paper. 

United States 

Over a quarter of the global research papers into COVID-19 were published with involvement from American institutions. Given half of the top 10 universities in our medicine subject ranking were based in the US, this is hardly surprising. In fact, those five medical schools – Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, UCLA and Yale – account for 20 percent of all COVID-19 papers in the world. 

Other notable universities to have collaborated on highly cited COVID-19 research papers are Princeton University and the University of Washington

United Kingdom 

British universities have also contributed significantly to the research into understanding COVID-19 and how to treat it. Imperial College London, UCL, the University of Oxford and King’s College London all feature within the top 20 of our medicine ranking and have also collectively contributed to nearly one-third of all published papers on COVID-19.  

What does this mean for me? 

If you’re considering which university is the right fit for you, learning more about the types of research conducted at each institution can be a useful way to gauge if the teaching focus will match your interests. 

Also, the speed and effectiveness of the leading research into COVID-19 has been remarkably impressive, perhaps revealing which medical schools are truly working at the cutting-edge of developments in medicine. 

This article was originally published in April 2021 .

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Written by

As Head of Content, Craig is responsible for all articles and guides published across TopUniversities and TopMBA. He has nearly 10 years of experience writing for a student audience and extensive knowledge of universities and study programs around the world.

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