The Times Higher Education has published the annual list of top 100 influential, powerful and best reputed universities in the world. The list is published since 2011, with the research methods growing in complexity and finesse every year.
In order to eliminate the possibility of subjectivity, the survey is carried out on invitation-only basis, and includes only the opinions of very experienced scholars with multiple publications and excellent academic reputation, who found their opinions on their understanding of academic excellency, education methods and overall efficiency of universities in question. More than 10,000 responses from 142 countries were processed, with people taking part in the survey spending on average more than 15 years in higher education and research.
The main goal of this year’s survey was to achieve the best possible spread, both in terms of geography and disciplines. Engineering, technology, social, physical and other sciences have all been represented more or less equally, and the responses are more evenly spread among countries. Arts and humanities in particular have been represented much better than previously, with their share growing from 9 per cent last year to 16 per cent.
The reputation score is based on the number of times the university is mentioned by respondents as the best in their particular field. That said, the survey pays greater attention to the research capabilities of the university than its educational facilities, because, according to experts, respondents in general give more accurate judgment on it.
The results, at least in what pertains to the top-20, are not very surprising. The first place is held (and was held since the survey was first conducted in 2011) by Harvard University, still far ahead of its closest contenders. Harvard’s score was taken as the basis for calculations, with all the others showing the percentages of how often it was cited by the respondents.
Cambridge and Oxford have risen to second and third places correspondingly, overtaking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University that occupied this position last year. British universities have shown better results in general – there are 12 UK universities in the top 100 compared to the last year’s results, with the newcomers being the universities of Durham and Warwick.
In general, the USA continues to dominate the list, with 26 US universities in top-50 positions and 43 in the list on the whole. Two universities deserving a notable mention are Tokyo University (twelfth) and the Chinese top higher education institution, Tsinghua University, raising 10 places up to the 26th. Some other countries are notable for their absence – for example, India, despite its strong academic traditions, didn’t make it.
It, however, should be noted that the survey authors indicate that only the first 50 positions should be treated as following one another, as the differences in ratings between them is quite noticeable. The difference between ratings of the lowest half of the list, however, is so negligible that these universities are simply said to have made it into the top-100, with the place they occupy being largely irrelevant.