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12th Apr 2021

UK and Swiss universities fare well in global ranking

  • Students at ETH Zurich, the 9th best university according to Times Higher Education (Photo: t-mizo)

Four UK universities and one Swiss university represent Europe in the top-20 of this year's World University Ranking, published in the Times' Higher Education magazine Wednesday (30 September).

The University of Oxford, which occupied third place last year, ousted Harvard from second place. Harvard is now in #6 position.

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  • Students at Oxford, which snatched second place from Harvard (Photo: skittledog)

The top of the list is still dominated by US educational institutions, as has been the case for years.

California Institute of Technology once again took first place honours, followed closely by Stanford University, which took the #3 position. Massachusetts Institute of Technology crept in at #5.

Other high-scoring European universities are University of Cambridge (UK, #4, up from #5), Imperial College London (UK, #8, up from #9), ETH Zurich (Switzerland, #9, up from #13), and University College London (UK, #14, up from #22).

The first university from an EU country outside of the UK is Karolinska Institute in Sweden, occupying place 28.

The list is compiled by a methodology determined by Times Higher Education, a London-based magazine. Between 2004 and 2009 it collaborated with company Quacquarelli Symonds, but QS has since come up with its own list – and there are several others out there with different methodologies.

'Simplistic' ranking

The European Commission has in the past criticized the rankings for failing to "represent the diverse and multifunctional nature of universities and their research activities accurately."

"The Commission is of the opinion that many existing rankings do not really fulfil this purpose, for example because they focus on research aspects rather than teaching, and on entire institutions rather than programmes and departments", it said in 2010.

Four years later, it launched an alternative ranking system called U-Multirank.

"The idea is to avoid simplistic league tables which can result in misleading comparisons between institutions of very different types or mask significant differences in quality between courses at the same university", the commission said at the time.

Nevertheless, Wednesday's "simplistic" list can be expected to be cited by European universities that perform well, or by countries with a relatively high number of listings.

The top-200 list includes 63 universities from the United States, 34 from the UK, 20 from Germany, 12 from the Netherlands, 7 from Switzerland, 6 from Sweden, 5 from France, 4 from Belgium, and 3 each from Denmark, Italy, and Spain.

China only has two universities listed in the top-200: Peking University (#42, up from 48) and Tsinghua University (#47, up from 49).

The twenty best-scoring European universities are:

2. University of Oxford (UK)

4. University of Cambridge (UK)

8. Imperial College London (UK)

9. ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Switzerland)

14. University College London (UK)

23. London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)

24. University of Edinburgh (UK)

27. King's College London (UK)

28. Karolinska Institute (Sweden)

29. LMU Munich (Germany)

31. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland)

35. KU Leuven (Belgium)

37. Heidelberg University (Germany)

47. Wageningen University and Research Center (The Netherlands)

49. Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany)

53. Technical University of Munich (Germany)

54. École Normale Supérieure (France)

56. University of Manchester (UK)

58. University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

62. Utrecht University (The Netherlands)

US and UK universities top world rankings

American and British universities continue to dominate in the global rankings with the next best faculty in a EU member state trailing a distant 24.

EU to test new university ranking in 2010

The European Union is developing a new worldwide ranking system of universities to rival currently established league tables in a bid to improve the ranking of European universities and improve Europe's economic power.

Education inequalities remain high in EU

Less people leave school prematurely, but socio-economic status, immigrant background and gender are still factors of underachievement, a commission report says.

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