Harvard Heads World University Ranking, U.S. Takes Top Spots

Harvard Heads World University Ranking
The Harvard University Science Center is seen through the arches of Memorial Hall on the school's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photographer: Michael Fein/Bloomberg

Harvard, the world’s richest university, was judged the best by the London-based Times Higher Education, as U.S. establishments took the top five places in the magazine’s annual World University Rankings.

The California Institute of Technology took second spot, with third place going to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stanford University and Princeton University were ranked fourth and fifth.

“Harvard is still absolutely the best university in the world across a broad range of measures,” Phil Baty, the editor of the rankings, said in a phone interview. “The secret of its success is that it’s very strong in both teaching and in research.”

Another ranking published by higher education information provider QS last week, had Britain’s University of Cambridge knocking Harvard off the top spot.

Times Higher Education has been publishing its own ranking since 2004, using data from QS. It said last year it would no longer work with QS and would develop a new methodology. Data for this ranking was produced by Thomson Reuters Corp. Harvard had previously topped the list every year.

The methodology employed this year is less heavily weighted toward subjective assessments or reputations and its academic citation measures are more robust, Steve Smith, the president of Universities UK, an umbrella body, commented.

“Harvard University is always honored to be recognized among such high-caliber institutions of higher learning,” Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal said in an e-mailed statement.

U.S., U.K. Dominate

Cambridge and the University of Oxford share sixth place in the Times Higher Education table. The University of California, Berkeley, Imperial College London and Yale University complete the top 10.

U.S. and U.K. universities dominate, with 72 American and 29 British institutions on the list of 200. Germany is third with 14.

“Money talks and America is still a very powerful, rich higher education nation,” Baty, a graduate of King’s College London, said. “It can afford to pay scholars very competitive salaries globally, it enjoys academic freedom and it controls a lot of the academic publishing world.”

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, in joint 15th place with the University of Michigan, is the highest placed university outside the U.K. and U.S. The University of Hong Kong, the highest-ranked Asian institution, is 21st.

France’s highest-ranked university, the Paris-based Ecole Polytechnique, is 39th and Germany’s, the University of Goettingen, is joint 43rd with the Australian National University, the University of Wisconsin and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. The University of Melbourne, in 36th place, is Australia’s highest-ranked establishment.

Budget Cuts

The U.K.’s reputation for world-class higher-education may be damaged by public spending cuts. On Oct. 20, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is due to announce cuts of as much as a quarter in government departments’ budgets.

Meanwhile, France and Germany are investing heavily in building their university systems, and in China and Korea “tremendous investment” is taking place to build world-class universities, Baty said.

Mainland China has six institutions in the top 200, more than any other Asian nation, with Peking University the highest-ranked establishment at 37th.

The Times Higher Education table is based on a survey of 13,388 academics worldwide and uses data from Thomson Reuters to measure 13 separate performance and reputation indicators covering teaching, citations, research, the mix of international students and industry income.

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