Records Broken and the US Universities Slip

QS University Rankings

At the start of June, the 2021 the QS World University Rankings were published and 1300 universities across the world poured over the lists of colleges and universities to see if they had gone up or down from last year.

The QS rankings are significant because they are one of the three most regarded rankings for universities across the world, the others being the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as Shanghai Ranking. In this blog, as well as looking at the headlines from the QS Rankings, I will also look at some of the trends that these rankings continue to show.

The headline

The US and UK continue to dominate the top ten positions, the US has five, while the UK has four. The final spot in the top ten is taken by Swiss based ETH Zurich in eighth place.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has, for an unprecedented tenth year, taken the top spot as the world’s best university in the rankings, while the University of Oxford has jumped three places into second place. Stanford University and the University of Cambridge are joint third while for the first time since the rankings have been produced, Harvard moves out of the top three and into fifth. The remaining five in the top ten are:

6th        California Institute of Technology

7th        Imperial College London

8th =     ETH Zurich

8th =     UCL

10th      University of Chicago

Changing country representation

While MIT chalked up a decade at the top of the rankings and the US continues to dominate them with 177 colleges and universities making the list, there has been a significant decline in their overall performance with 91 universities dropping down and only 29 gaining places. This decline has included some prestigious institutions, Harvard dropping out of the top three for the first time, Cornell dropping out of the top 20 and Duke out of the top 50.

The US is by no means alone in having a difficult year in terms of the rankings, Japan and South Korea were other countries with big overall falls. Japan had 24 institutions move down the rankings while only five showed an improvement, South Korea had 20 go down and six improve.

Meanwhile, there were strong performances by institutions in China, which is the most improved country in terms of the number of institutions that have improved their ranking, 32. For the first time, China had two universities in the top 20, Tsinghua University in 17th place and Peking University just behind in 18th. Australia was another country to see a strong performance, with 16 institutions gaining places, including all of the top four universities. Canada also saw more institutions rise than fall.

 How the rankings work

In order to rank each university in a consistent way, the QS Rankings assess them across six metrics.

·      Academic reputation  40%

·      Employer reputation  10%

·      Faculty/student ratio  20%

·      Citations per faculty  20%

·      International faculty ratio  5%

·      International student ratio  5%

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