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All new THE World University Rankings 2016-17

The latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings are now out. The most eagerly awaited international league table of the year. Until the next one.
This article is more than 7 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

The latest league table of the season is out with the publication of the all new THE World University Ranking. The full gory details can be found here but it is interesting to note the narrative of at least partial Western decline (albeit with Oxford in the top spot for the first time):

This year’s list of the best universities in the world is led by a UK university for the first time in the 12-year history of the table; the University of Oxford is the world’s number one university, knocking five-time champion the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) into second place. It is the first time a US institution does not take the top spot. However, the North American powerhouse still dominates the list with 148 universities in the top 980 and 63 in the top 200. The rest of the top five is filled by Stanford University in third, the university of Cambridge in fourth, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in fifth.

Elsewhere in the West, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, has cemented its position in the top 10, landing at ninth for the second year in a row; last year the institution became the first non-Anglo-American institution to make the world rankings top 10 for a decade. Germany has also performed well in the table thanks to its institutions producing highly influential research, with 41 institutions overall, 22 of which make the top 200 and nine of which make the top 100, up from seven. Meanwhile, the Netherlands’ 13 leading research-intensive universities have all made the top 200; it is the first time they have all made this elite group.

But institutions in France, Italy and Spain and many parts of central and eastern Europe are losing ground as Asia continues its ascent; the world university rankings prove that Asia’s improvement in higher education is real and growing. Overall, 289 Asian universities from 24 countries make the ranking and an elite 19 land in the top 200, up from 15 last year. China’s Peking University joins the top 30 in 29th place (up from 42nd last year), while Tsinghua University joins the top 40 in 35th place (up from joint 47th). Five of Hong Kong’s six representatives make the top 200 – more than any other Asian region – while South Korea has also made great strides. And the National University of Singapore (NUS), Asia’s top university, is at 24th – its highest ever rank.


With the exception of the Oxford/Caltech swap in first and second place the top of the table looks not wholly dissimilar to previous years with a significant presence for US universities:

1 Oxford (2)
2 Caltech (1)
3 Stanford (3)
4 Cambridge (4)
5 MIT (5)
6 Harvard (6)
7 Princeton (7)
8 Imperial (8)
9 ETH Zurich (9)
10= Chicago (10)
10= Berkeley (13)
12 Yale (12)
13 Pennsylvania (17)
14 UCLA (16)
15 UCL (14)
16 Colombia (15)
17 Johns Hopkins (11)
18 Duke (20)
19 Cornell (18)
20 Northwestern (25)
21 Michigan (21)
22 Toronto (19)
23 Carnegie Mellon (22)
24 NUS (26)
25= LSE (23)
25= Washington (32)

UK universities’ performance is, to say the least, mixed. While Oxford bags the exclusive #1 spot and there are still 32 institutions in the top 200, all bar nine drop places in the top 200, four drop out of the top 100 and two institutions, St George’s and Queen’s Belfast, drop out of the top 200.

No doubt this is already being attributed to Brexit but whatever the reason it is not likely to be greeted with too much joy in the UK. Except in Oxford perhaps.

1 Oxford (2)
4 Cambridge (4)
8 Imperial College (8)
15 UCL (14)
25= LSE (23)
27 Edinburgh (24)
36= King’s College (27)
55 Manchester (56=)
71 Bristol (69)
82= Warwick (80)
88 Glasgow (76=)
96= Durham (70)
109 Sheffield (97)
110= St Andrews (86)
113= Queen Mary (98)
121= Southampton (110=)
126= Exeter (93)
129 York (131=)
130 Birmingham (119)
133 Leeds (133=)
137= Lancaster (130)
147 Nottingham (143)
149 Sussex (140)
158 Liverpool (157)
165= UEA (149=)
172 Leicester (167=)
173= Royal Holloway (129)
180 Dundee (185=)
182= Cardiff (182=)
188= Aberdeen (172=)
190= Newcastle (196=)
192= Reading (164=)

There are 13 performance indicators in the THE ranking which are grouped into five areas:

Teaching (the learning environment)
Research (volume, income and reputation)
Citations (research influence)
International outlook (staff, students and research)
Industry income (knowledge transfer)

The full methodology can be found here and it should be noted that a large number of books have been counted as research outputs for the first time this year which may or may not have had an impact. Note too that in something of a league table first all of this has been audited by PwC.

All data is from Times Higher Education WUR. 

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