This article is more than 5 years old

Another vital university ranking: Ancient is still best

In line with all of the best rankings practice, we've run the numbers again on the '20 over 500' rankings. The results are an eye opener.
This article is more than 5 years old

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

This blog has recently come in for some criticism, almost all of which was entirely justified, about the recent Top 10 Dumbest Rankings ever.

Some were concerned that profoundly accurate, methodologically sound and wholly legitimate rankings were on the list while others were worried that some utter nonsense had, for unknown reasons, completely failed to make the cut. We’re still waiting for any arguments about the number one slot though. Come on people – speak out!

Whilst not intending to uphold any of the appeals received (because that would imply somehow we might get things wrong sometimes and that would never do), I did want to reflect on the wonder of some recent rankings. First we have the Young Upstart Universities, where you are guaranteed change every year as institutions inevitably grow older. Everyone’s a winner therefore. Apart from those who are eliminated from the top of the ranking because of the unfortunate passage of time. And now we have the Golden Oldies. This is a new ranking intended clearly to placate those universities who enjoyed their few years in the sun at hanging out with the kids in the under 50s but now have to admit they have grown up a bit.

Of course neither of these can match the authority of the 20 over 500 – the real elder states-people of the university world.

Last time we published this definitive ranking was back in 2013. But, in line with all of the best rankings practice, we thought we had better just run the numbers again to check if there had been much movement. Let’s see how it turned out:

Last century’s position is in brackets:

  1. University of Bologna (1)
  2. University of Oxford (2)
  3. University of Cambridge (3)
  4. University of Salamanca (4)
  5. University of Padua (5)
  6. University of Naples (6)
  7. University of Valladolid (7)
  8. University of Murcia (8)
  9. University of Montpelier (9)
  10. University of Macerata (10)
  11. University of Coimbra (11)
  12. University of Alacala (12)
  13. La Sapienza, University of Rome (13)
  14. University of Perugia (14)
  15. University of Florence (15)
  16. University of Camerino (16)
  17. University of Pisa (17)
  18. Charles University of Prague (18)
  19. University of Pavia (19)
  20. Jagiellonian University (20)

Not a huge amount to report here, with the top twenty remaining entirely unchanged. Yet again. As indeed it has done indeed since 1364 when Jagiellonian University opened.

Well, not much change to report there then. We’ll keep you posted if there is any movement before the next millennium. Here’s to many more dumb rankings in future.

3 responses to “Another vital university ranking: Ancient is still best

  1. I do have one question on your methodology – is there a working definition of “University” in this League Table or is it solely based on the oldest institutions with the word University in their name?

    1. I’ve referred this to the Methodological Adjudication Committee for an answer (next meeting is in May 2036)

Leave a Reply