US and British institutions once again dominate an annual worldwide league table of universities published on Thursday, but there is a fresh name at the top, unseating long-time leader Harvard. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) knocked the famous Massachusetts institution from the summit of the Times Higher Education (THE) league table for the first time in eight years, with US schools claiming 75 of the top 200 places. Next is Britain, which boasts 32 establishments in the top 200, but an overhaul in the way in which the country’s universities are funded has raised concerns over its continuing success.
Asia’s increasing presence in the annual table has stalled, with 30th placed University of Tokyo leading the continent’s representation. China’s top two universities hold on to their elite status, but no more institutions from the developing powerhouse managed to break into the top 200. THE attributed Caltech’s success to “consistent results across the indicators and a steep rise in research funding”. Caltech specialises in science and engineering and has its main campus a short distance north of Los Angeles. 365-year-old Harvard, which loses the top spot for the first time since THE began publishing a global university ranking, shares second place with Californian university Stanford.
There was change at the top in Britain also where Oxford sneaked into fourth spot, overtaking Cambridge, which slipped to sixth. The turnabout can be put down to a greater emphasis being put on the arts, humanities and social sciences in this year’s study, THE explained. David Willetts, British minister of state for universities and science, said: “Relative to our size and smaller per capita resources, we have – according to some measures – the world’s best-performing higher education sector.” The top 10 places are mainly occupied by US universities, including Princeton, Berkeley and Chicago.
Only two universities from outside the United States and Britain – Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology in 15th spot and Canada’s University of Toronto in 19th – make it into the top 20. Israel is the only Middle Eastern country to break the top 200 with Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 121st place and Tel Aviv University in 166th place. For the first time, the study also ranked countries according to their relative GDP with Hong Kong and the Netherlands coming out on top. Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education, said: “New powers are emerging, traditional hierarchies are facing challenges, the global competition for talent is heating up and these league tables help us understand this rapidly changing situation.”