Harvard tops Times Higher Education’s World Reputation Rankings for sixth year
By Bonnie K. Goodman
In the first major ranking of the 2016-2017 academic year, Harvard is again the top university. On May 4, 2016, The Times Higher Education released their sixth annual World Reputation Ranking with Harvard University remaining in the top spot for six years in a row. The top three are all American universities, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the second place, and Stanford University in third. British universities round out the top five with Universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the fourth and fifth place moving down from second and third place last year.
There was little movement in the top 10. The exception has been the rise of American universities and the falling of British schools in the top five. According to Times Higher Education rankings editor Phil Baty, “six universities, four from the US as well as Oxford and Cambridge, have dominated the top half of the rankings for the past five years, but added that other countries are making gains.”
Harvard remains on top and for the five of the six years, MIT has been in second place. Eight of the top 10 were American universities, including Stanford University, Princeton University, Yale University, Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology.
The ranking is considered, “the definitive list of the world’s most prestigious universities.” Phil Baty, the rankings editor for THE, explains, “Reputation is the global currency of higher education. It may be subjective; it may not always be fair, but it matters deeply.” THE’s World Reputation Rankings “have become a major fixture in the higher education calendar – serving as a yearly global academic brand audit and attracting news headlines across the world.”
The ranking is international, with 18 countries represented in the top 100 universities. The United States has the most schools in the ranking with 43 institutions with Harvard the top ranking. In the second place, the United Kingdom has the second most universities with 10, and the University of Cambridge, the top school. Last year the UK had 12 institutions in the top 100.
As THE notes, “two UK institutions – the University of Bristol and Durham University – have fallen out of the top 100. Seven of the 10 have slipped to lower positions.” Baty indicates, “Even the country’s most prestigious institutions have slipped, with the universities of Cambridge and Oxford each dropping two places to fourth and fifth place respectively.”
In mainland Europe, Germany has the most universities in the top 100 with six; LMU Munich is their top school at tied for 40. However, Switzerland has Europe’s top university ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich at number 19. Among European countries, France has the second most number of institutions on the continent with universities, with École Normale Supérieure the top school ranking at 61-70. The Netherlands also has five schools in the top 100 with Delft University of Technology their ranking school coming in at 51-60 in the ranking.
European universities are “losing ground.” As THE explained, “Four of Germany’s six institutions and four of the Netherlands’ five representatives have also dropped down the list, while Denmark and Finland no longer feature among the top 100. They each had one institution in last year’s reputation ranking.”
Asia sees a rising number of institutions in the reputation rankings. Japan has five universities in the top 100 with University of Tokyo their top school remaining at number 12, outranking any institution in mainland Europe. China has five universities in the top 100, with their highest-ranking school Tsinghua University at number 18 moving up from 26 last year. Asia has 18 schools in the rankings; in 2015, they had only 10. In 2015, Japan and China had only two universities each in the top 100.
Canada has three universities in the top 100, with the University of Toronto, the country’s top school at number 23. Meanwhile, the University of British Columbia is in second place in the country and at number 37 in THE’s ranking. McGill University, which usually ranks as the top university in Canadian rankings, is only third in THE’s World Reputation Ranking coming in third at number 39 down for from 35 last year. McGill has been consistently ranking third in Canada in international rankings. Ellie Bothwell, a rankings reporter for THE indicated, “Canada’s performance, has dropped a bit.”
The rankings are entirely based on the opinion of the institutions, as THE explains, “The rankings are entirely subjective – they are based purely on an annual opinion survey.” The methodology for determining the rankings consists of sending the survey to “more than 10,000 top scholars from around the world. Each academic was asked to name up to 15 universities that they believe are the best for research and teaching in their discipline. Votes for institutions based on research prowess were given twice the weight of those for teaching.”
Times Higher Education rankings editor Baty pointed out, “Outside this tiny supergroup, the global higher education world is changing, and some leading lights in the US and the UK, for example, household names, have lost ground, while universities in China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea are all making progress. We now have a Chinese university in the world top 20 for the first time, and another right behind it in the top 30.”
Top 10 World Reputation Rankings
2016 reputation rank – 2015 reputation rank – Institution Country – 2015-16 WUR position
1, 1 Harvard University, United States, 6
2, 4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States 5
3, 5 Stanford University, United States, 3
4, 2 University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, 4
5, 3 University of Oxford, United Kingdom, 2
6, 6 University of California, Berkeley, United States, 13
7, 7 Princeton University, United States, 7
8, 8 Yale University, United States, 12
9, 10 Columbia University, United States, 15
10, 9 California Institute of Technology, United States, 1