Last week a group of young researchers at the Shanghai Jiaotong university were busy compiling the 9th version of the Academic Ranking of World Universities. This was first compiled in 2003 and was greeted like a bombshell in France as well as in several other countries.
The 2012 once again confirmed the supremacy of American universities where more than half of the top 100 being from the USA. 9 years on the winners are….the USA (though with warning signs), China, Australia, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. And the losers? Japan, Germany and perhaps India.
Top 500 2003-2012 Ups and Downs
The reaction to this list has been extremely varied across the world. Surprisingly, the country that most benefited from it, the USA was rather muted about its conclusions. At the high end of the scale the domination of US universities remains unchallenged. Of the top 100 universities in the ranking in 2003, 58 were from the USA. Today the USA still has more than the rest of the world combined with 53. The UK has maintained nine universities in this top group. Japan, Germany and The Netherlands have all lost one university from the top group. Israel however, has gone from 1 to 3 and Australia has improved from 2 to 5 in the top 100. This is impressive.
For the rest the group of elite universities has remained remarkably stable. Given the financial resources necessary to generate the research this is perhaps not surprising. Research also takes time (3 to 5 years for a four star article) which means that changes are bound to be slow. Also 10% of the ranking system is based on having a Nobel Prize winner. You don’t get those every day!
Most press coverage focuses on this top slice. However, since this is bound to be very stable, it is perhaps more interesting to look at the top 500. Here far more changes occur and these can be revealing.
Trends in the top 500
Looking at the top 500 gives a better overall picture of trends and the first one may not be great news for the USA. While it can still boast a 30% presence in this table with 150 universities this figure is down from a high of 170 (34%) in 2004. This is a gentle downward trend that is one of the weak signals one finds in a declining market.
20 US universities have dropped out of this Top 500 ranking.
Japan has also seen a spectacular decline in the number of its universities in the top 500 going from 36 to 21. No doubt this is in line with the relative loss of its economic might but the rapid demise in the last 4 years should give the Japanese government much cause for concern.
Germany has also seen a similar if less spectacular decline with 5 of its universities (University of Dortmund (2003), Kaiserslautern University of Technology (2004), Saarland University (2007), Hannover Medical School (2011), University of Greifswald (2011) losing top 500 status in the past nine years. The UK and France have also seen more minor drops in the number of universities in the top 500. However, that still leaves Germany, France and the UK with 20% of the universities present in the top 500.
So, those are some of the “losers”, who are the winners?
The rise of emerging economies…
Perhaps not surprisingly, it is the emerging economies that are moving up on this list though again this is in varying degrees according to the country. The biggest gain comes from China as you would probably expect. When the ranking began in 2003 China only had 9 universities in the top 500. Today it has 24 and 4 of those (Peking University (2003), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (2003), Tsinghua University (2003) and Zhejiang University (2003)) have made it into the top 200. Saudi Arabia was totally absent from the list until 2009 when King Saud University (2009) made it into the top 500. Today, 2 other universities from the kingdom are also present (King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (2010) and King Abdulaziz University (2012)).
Similarly, Brazil has also added two extra universities to the list of the top 500. It has been much slower than China in adding courses in English to attract international students and faculty and this may have had an effect on the slow pace of this improvement (relative to a surging economy).
One country that shouldn’t have a problem in providing courses in English is India and yet, they have gone against the emerging economy trend and have lost universities in the top 500. Three Indian HEIs were present in 2003 but the University of Calcutta (2005) and the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (2010) have gradually been lost form this list. Today only the Indian Institute of Science remains as the sole representative for Indian in the top 500 ranking.
Going up down under…..
Another region that has made vast improvements is Oceania. Australia had 13 universities in the top 500 in 2003. This year it had 19 with the Flinders University (2004), University of Wollongong (2007), Swinburne University of Technology (2009), Curtin University of Technology (2009), Griffith University (2011) and the University of Technology, Sydney (2011) having all joined this pretigious list. In New Zealand, the University of Canterbury (2005) and the Victoria University of Wellington have enabled the country to go from 3 to 5 in the list.
Those are some of the statistics for the moment. In the next few weeks I shall be writing about the implications of these changes in different countries.
Related Blog Articles
ESI: only 4 countries received at least 50.000 citations in the period 2002-2012 in the field of Economics & Business, Netherlands included.
Research Management: “The field of economics & Business covers 289 journals in the essential science Indicators of Web of Science. Only 4 countries received on avarage at least 50.000 citations in the period covered by the ESI. But the size of the production difefers very much. USA still by far the largets producers of papers in economics and business.”
Elizabeth Buckner Blog: “A new survey out reports that the vast majority of Americans are proud of their higher education institutions and that they believe they out perform or out rank those in both developed and developing countries.”
GlobalHigherEd: “My concern about the term ‘World University Rankings’ relates to the very small number of universities that are ranked relative to the total number of universities around the world that have combined research and teaching mandates.”
Mark Thomas Grenoble EM ESC Grenoble GGSB Strategy Blog Global Ed International Affairs in Higher Education Business School