US Schools Lose Ground in THE 2015 University Rankings


The Times Higher Education (THE) magazine has released its annual world university rankings, which looks at 800 institutions across 70 countries to find the best schools worldwide.

While 147 institutions featured on the top 800 of the list are found in the United States, there are signs that the country is dropping from its dominance over the world university rankings.  The US now has 63 universities in the top 200, although 74 were featured there last year and 77 the year before that.  Although 7 top 10 schools were in the US last year, that number dropped to 6 this year.

The California Institute of Technology took first place for the fifth consecutive year.  Other top 10 schools in the US include Stanford (third), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (fifth), Harvard (sixth – its first time outside the top four in the rankings’ 12-year history), Princeton (seventh) and the University of Chicago (10th).

Phil Baty, THE rankings editor, suggests that this is in part due to improvements made throughout the data sources for the rankings this year, with “improved coverage of research not published in English and a better geographical spread of responses to our academic reputation survey”.

Simon Marginson, professor of international higher education at the UCL Institute of Education, added that US research is “not declining in the absolute sense”, but more so that “other countries are improving and crowding into the top 200 space”.

One of these competitors is the UK.  Of the institutions listed on the rankings this year, 78 are found in the UK, with 34 in the top quarter up from 29 last year.  Three of those schools are found in the top 10.  The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge have each climbed a spot this year, coming in second and fourth, respectively.

Overall, 345 universities on the top 800 are located in Europe, or over two-fifths of the table.

Despite this, experts suggest that funding cuts and immigration measures that affect visiting students from overseas could cause the UK’s reputation as a world leader in higher education to fall, writes Josie Gurney-Read for The Telegraph.

“Despite the UK’s success, its continued cuts in higher education funding – the Higher Education Funding Council for England received a £150m budget slash this year – and series of immigration measures affecting overseas students, will hinder its performance in the long run.  Many of the country’s European rivals, such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, are also performing well, but are less hindered by funding cuts and more welcoming for international students,” said Baty.

In all there are 70 countries featured on the list this year, 29 more than last year.  A number of countries, including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Kenya, are represented for the first time.