American universities fail to top Times Higher Education most international universities in 2017

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

When it comes to universities with the best global reputations and connections American universities are lagging behind their peers in Europe, Asia, and the United Kingdom. When Times Higher Education released on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, their inaugural ranking of the most international universities, not one American university made the top 20, with their first showing at number 22 with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For THE the most international schools are in Switzerland with ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in the top spot, followed by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in second place. Rounding out the top three is an Asian university, the University of Hong Kong.

Unlike THE World University Rankings, instead of the United States, the United Kingdom dominates the top ten of the most international universities. Five schools starting with the Imperial College of London rank in the top 10, the others include “the University of Oxford (sixth place), the University of Cambridge (eighth place), the University of London (ninth place) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (10th place).” The remaining top ten consists of another school from China fourth place the University of Singapore and Australasia is also represented with the Australian National University in seventh place.

The most international university rankings are far different than THE’s World University Rankings with very few making this list’s top 10. Only the Imperial College of London, which was eighth, University of Oxford, which was first, the University of Cambridge, which was fourth and the ETH Zurich, which was ninth-placed were ranked in the World University Rankings top 10.

American universities that usually crowd the top of most international rankings and even dominate THE’s World University Rankings are surprisingly absent from the even the most international universities top 20. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the top US showing at 22, whereas it was fifth in the world rankings, Harvard University that regularly tops many rankings at both national and international levels, just ranks at 33 whereas it was in sixth place in the world rankings.

The same can be said for Stanford University coming in at a measly 36 when it was third, the top ranking US school in the world rankings, Princeton University who was in seventh place in the world rankings is just 37, while the California Institute of Technology which was second, is only 52nd. There is a reason for this and has nothing to do with the preeminence of the institutions. Instead, they are “less reliant on immigration to supply it with the top student and academic talent,” and therefore rank lower in this international ranking. Still, American universities have an impressive showing, with 64 schools represented out of a ranking that only ranked 150 schools worldwide.

Unlike their neighbors to the South, Canadian universities fare well in the ranking, with five schools making a list, all of them, in the top 35. The University of British Columbia is the top Canadian school at 12th place; it was 36th in the world rankings. Followed by McGill University at 22nd (42), the University of Alberta at 31st, (107), the University of Toronto at 32nd place (22) and the University of Waterloo at 34, which only placed at 173 in the world rankings.

The ranking measures the international reach of the universities, their reputations and ability to attract an international array of professors, researchers, and students. The ranking is a combination of the “‘international outlook’ pillar of the THE World University Rankings 2016–17,” and the “measure of universities’ international reputations, taken from THE’s annual Academic Reputation Survey.”

Forbes simplifies THE’s methodology explaining the primary factors used in determining the list. They include “the proportions of international students, international staff and journal publications with at least one international co-author. It also weighs a school’s international reputation based on survey.” Each university’s overall score is an average of their “Staff/Student/Co-Author score” and “international reputation.”

Top 20 Times Higher Education Most International Universities:

Rank Rank in THE World University Rankings 2016–17 Institution Country Overall score
1 9 ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland 97.1
2 30 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland 96.7
3 43 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 96.5
4 24 National University of Singapore Singapore 96
5 8 Imperial College London United Kingdom 95.2
6 1 University of Oxford United Kingdom 94.3
7 47 Australian National University Australia 93
8 4 University of Cambridge United Kingdom 92.8
9 15 University College London United Kingdom 92.2
10 25 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom 92
11 36 King’s College London United Kingdom 91.9
12 36 University of British Columbia Canada 90.2
13 27 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom 90.1
14 78 University of New South Wales Australia 89.3
15 106 University of Zurich Switzerland 88.6
16 116 École Polytechnique France 88.5
17 82 University of Warwick United Kingdom 88.1
18 33 University of Melbourne Australia 87.7
19 88 University of Glasgow United Kingdom 86.8
20 55 University of Manchester United Kingdom 86.6

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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