US dominates list of best universities for academic excellence

Director General of the Russell Group says UK 'simply cannot afford to be complacent while the best universities in our competitor countries are rewarded with significant investment'

Aftab Ali
Monday 17 August 2015 12:23
Harvard University's Law School
Harvard University's Law School

The US has continued to dominate higher education rankings after China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University released its annual Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

Eight universities in the top 10 alone are in America, with two being UK-based, as more than 51 US institutions feature in the top 100.

The list remains unaltered on last year: Harvard, Stanford, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology lead the way for academic excellence, with Cambridge and Oxford being placed fifth and tenth place respectively. Harvard took the top-spot for the 13th year in a row with a perfect score of 100.

With nine UK universities – all Russell Group – listed in the top 100, Director General of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, highlighted the importance of the task ahead for the country’s higher education institutions.

University of Cambridge enjoys its fifth place for another year for worldwide academic excellence (VIA SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)

Describing how Britain’s leading universities “punch well above their weight”, given the UK spends much less on higher education than its nearest rivals, she added: “If the UK is to stay at the front of the pack, we must fend-off fierce competition from countries like China, Japan, and Germany.

“The UK simply cannot afford to be complacent while the best universities in our competitor countries are rewarded with significant investment.”

The top 10 universities in the world for academic excellence:

  1. Harvard University – 100

  2. Stanford University – 73.3

  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – 70.4

  4. University of California, Berkeley – 69.6

  5. University of Cambridge – 68.8

  6. Princeton University – 61

  7. California Institute of Technology – 59.6

  8. Columbia University – 58.8

  9. University of Chicago – 57.1

  10. University of Oxford – 56.6

University of Warwick – placed at 92 – entered the top 100 list for the first time, as 11 other institutions made their debut in the top 500, including Queensland University of Technology in Australia and Sharif University of Technology in Iran.

Warwick’s vice-chancellor, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, expressed his delight at the institution’s performance this year and said: “This has been a year filled with stunning international ranking results for the University of Warwick, and it is particularly fitting that this come in the year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of our university.”

University of Oxford, again, takes tenth place for worldwide academic excellence (via Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

When ranking world universities, ARWU uses key objective indicators, which are:

  • The number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals

  • The number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Reuters

  • The number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science

  • The number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index

  • Per capita performance of a university

More than 1,200 universities are ranked by ARWU every year and the best 500 are published.

Beginning in 2003, the ARWU’s original intent was to find the global standing of top Chinese universities.

However, after attracting a great deal of attention from universities, governments, and public media worldwide, it began to take into account higher education institutions from across the globe and The Economist hailed it as being “the most widely used annual ranking of the world’s research universities.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education also wrote that ARWU “is considered the most influential international ranking.”

View the complete top 500 here.

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