Asian universities challenge US-UK domination of rankings
The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd
The UK has better universities than any other country apart from the US, but Asian nations are catching up fast, a major survey of the world’s top thinkers shows.
Campuses across the world were rated by 17,554 leading academics from 149 countries according to how good they thought their research and teaching were.
Harvard takes the top spot, with the University of Cambridge in third place and the University of Oxford in sixth place –the same as last year.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes second, while Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, are in fourth and fifth place.
The results, published as a league table by Times Higher Educationmagazine, places 44 US universities in the top 100 – one fewer than last year – while the UK has 10, two fewer than last year. Japan and the Netherlands have five each in the top 100.
Just four countries are represented in the top 20: the US, the UK, Japan and Canada.
Some of the UK’s leading universities have dropped several places since last year, while China’s universities have improved their performance. China is expanding its higher education system faster than most other countries in the world.
Imperial College London has dropped from 11th to 13th place and University College London from 19th to 21st. The University of Edinburgh has fallen from 45th to 49th place, while the University of Sheffield and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are no longer in the top 100.
However, the London School of Economics and Political Science has risen from 37th place last year to 29th.
All the leading Asian universities, particularly those in China, have a higher ranking than they did last year. Tsinghua University in Beijing rose from 35th to 30th; Peking University has gone from 43rd to 38th; and the University of Hong Kong is now ranked 39th, up three places from last year.
The National University of Singapore has climbed from 27th to 23rd place. The University of Tokyo has maintained its place as the eighth best in the world.
Phil Baty, rankings editor at Times Higher Education magazine, said there was a clear risk that UK universities, other than Oxford and Cambridge, would be “relegated from the premier league …in the eyes of the world, with tangible and sustained damage”.
“Perception is reality and it seems that we are perceived as a fading power,” he said. “Our data provides clear evidence that, in terms of prestige among academics around the world, there is the start of a power shift from the west to the east.”
Academics taking part in the survey have worked in universities for an average of more than 16 years and published several papers.
There are several other league tables of the world’s universities, but this one only ranks institutions on their reputation. Universities are likely to use the rankings to judge how much they should charge in tuition fees.
Shabana Mahmood, the shadow minister for higher education, said:“While it is a sign of our strength that the UK is one of only four countries represented in the top 20 universities in the world, the government should sit up and take note of the relative decline of UK institutions compared to those in Europe, the far east and Australia.
“This is symptomatic of the chaos and confusion being created by the government as a result of their rapid changes to higher education. Trebling tuition fees and cutting funding to universities has damaged the promise of Britain and this has been reflected around the world.”