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Out Now: QS World University Rankings 2020

Out Now: QS World University Rankings 2020 main image

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been named as the best university in the world for a record-breaking eighth successive year, making it the most successful institution in the history of our ranking.

The American university is one of 157 US institutions to be ranked this year. Interestingly, not all of them can match MIT’s consistency, with 117 of them falling in rank this year. A similar story can be seen in the performance of UK universities, with 56 of the 84 institutions based there dropping at least one place.

While the likes of the University of Oxford continue to perform well – the elite university is up one place to fourth this year – other, less renowned UK universities have struggled to keep pace with those around them.

The decline on both sides of the Atlantic is – at least partly – due to UK and US universities seeing a decline in international students. The ratio of international students is one of the indicators used to compile the ranking (as explained in our methodology) and the impact of both Brexit and Donald Trump appear to be pushing international students to consider alternative study destinations.

Australia, in particular, appears to be benefiting with 26 of the 35 universities based there improving their ratio of international students. Nine of the world’s 50 most international universities are now Australian.

Below, you’ll find this year’s top 10. Keep reading for more analysis of how universities performed by each of the six ranking indicators.

QS World University Rankings 2020 – Top 10

2020 Rank

2019 Rank

University

Location

1

1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2

2

United States

3

3

United States

4

5

University of Oxford

5

4

United States

6

7

7

6

United Kingdom

8

10

United Kingdom

9

8

United Kingdom

10

9

United States

Academic reputation

Eight universities have all scored a perfect 100 for academic reputation in this year’s ranking, a measure of how the institution is perceived by other academics. Five of these are listed in the overall top 10 above (MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge) but the other three are worth focusing on briefly.

The University of Tokyo is up one place to joint 22nd this year and continues to be the top university in Japan. Only three other institutions from Asia are ranked above Tokyo this year, cementing its reputation as one of the best places to attend university in the continent.

Our other two faultless universities with academics are not only both based in the US, they’re both based in California. The University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have both fallen in overall rank this year but continue to enjoy a healthy academic reputation, having also scored 100 for this indicator last year.

Employer reputation

This indicator functions in much the same way as academic reputation, only it’s based on the opinions of some of the top employers around the world. Looking at this indicator in isolation, we can see which universities you should want to be able to list at the top of your CV.

Only six have managed a perfect score of 100 this year, five of which also scored 100 with academics. The sixth, CentraleSupélec, is ranked 139th in the world and is only the fourth best university in France. This poor overall performance is the result of poor academic reputation, suggesting the newly-founded institution (it was established in 2015) is still yet to earn notice for its research and teaching.

Faculty: student ratio

A whopping 20 universities achieved a perfect score for their ratio of faculty members to students this year, showing more institutions are recognizing the benefits of small class sizes and personal contact with tutors. Only 19 universities managed this feat in last year’s ranking.

A wide range of universities are among the 20 this year, with Japan, Italy, France, Russia and Denmark all represented. While five of the institutions achieved an overall finish in the top 10, others are far more obscure. Wake Forest University in the United States is the lowest-ranked university to score 100 for its faculty to student ratio, having dropped 11 places to joint 398th.

Citations per faculty

A measure of the quantity of research being produced by a university, citations per faculty allows institutions with a strong analytical focus to shine.

Of the five universities to score a perfect 100 this year, only Caltech is a recognizable name from our overall top 10. Princeton University and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) are also based in the US, while the other two universities are from India and South Korea.

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore has dropped 14 places overall this year to 184th but continues to enjoy a strong research output. It performs best in the QS World University Rankings by Subject for chemical engineering and materials science, suggesting those two areas are likely to be the focus of much of the institute’s leading research.

The Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) has also underperformed this year overall, falling seven places to joint 322nd. It also performs well in our subject rankings for materials science, so anyone interested in this subject area has two intriguing, more obscure universities which they may want to consider applying to.

International faculty and international students

These two indicators both measure how international a university is, something which we consider to be an important factor, particularly for anyone looking to study abroad.

Around 50 universities achieved a perfect score for at least one of these indicators, suggesting there are plenty of places where international students will feel more than welcome. There’s a fantastic level of international diversity at universities all over the world, from the United Arab Emirates to Australia, France and even Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, only 10 universities achieved a perfect score in both of these indicators and none of these are from the US. The UK is represented three times, by Imperial College London, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and SOAS, University of London. Clearly – despite anxieties about Brexit – London remains thoroughly open to international students.

Learn even more by exploring the QS World University Rankings 2020 in full and let us know your thoughts on this year’s results below.

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Written by Craig OCallaghan
As editor of TopUniversities.com, Craig oversees the site's editorial content and network of student contributors. He also plays a key editorial role in the publication of several guides and reports, including the QS Top Grad School Guide.

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