Harvard again tops Times Higher Education’s World Reputation Rankings for seventh-year

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

The crown jewel of the Ivy League, Harvard University again is the world most prestigious university reputation wise. Photo: Harvard.edu

When it comes to reputation, no university in the world can surpass Harvard, who is again the top university. On Thursday, June 14, 2017, The Times Higher Education released their seventh 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 the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford both tied for fourth place.

There was little movement in the top 10. There was one big change The University of Chicago moves up two into the top 10 and the ninth spot bumping out Ivy League Columbia University, which falls from ninth to 12th place. The only other change is the University of Oxford moves up to tie with fellow British school The University of Cambridge.

Otherwise, Harvard remains on top as Forbes points out, “Harvard can, as of this month, claim another distinction: the most reputable institution of higher learning on Earth-an honor it has enjoyed for the past six years.” For the six of the past seven years; MIT has been in second place. Eight of the top 10 were American universities, including Stanford University, Princeton University, Yale University, the University of California, Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology and new entry the University of Chicago.

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 19 countries represented in the top 100 universities. The United States has the most schools in the ranking but one less this year, with 42 institutions represented and Harvard the top ranking. American universities, however, are seeing a decline, with 20 schools falling in the ranking and only eight improving their positions. In the second place, the United Kingdom has the second most universities with 10, and the University of Cambridge and Oxford University tied at fourth, as the country’s the top school.

The THE is blaming Donald Trump being elected President of the United States and Brexit, for American and British schools losing prestige. THE rankings editor, Phil Baty pointed out about American institutions’ decline, “Claiming 42 places in the top 100 list (one fewer than last year), the US is the most-represented country in the table. But it will have to watch out for the rise of Asia as several of the continent’s higher education stars overtake well-established American powerhouses. Overall 20 of the U.S.’s 42 representatives have declined since last year and only eight have improved; the rest are stagnant.”

The other factor is the rise of Asian universities. The top Asian university is the University of Japan sitting at number 11, barely outside the top ten. There are also two other Asian schools in the top 20, China’s Tsinghua University and Peking University at the number 14 and 17 positions. Since 2011, Tsinghua moved up 21 spots, while Peking moved up 26 spots, both incredible leaps.

As THE indicates the University of Japan ranks higher than Ivy League Columbia University, and that Tsinghua University and Peking University are leading Imperial College London, the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University, two Ivy League universities and a prestigious British school. THE writer Ellie Bothwell comments in the press release, “China’s Tsinghua University and Peking University both leapfrogged the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University in the table this year while the University of Tokyo now has a stronger reputation than Columbia University. Meanwhile, Seoul National University is now considered more prestigious than the University of California, Davis.”

The three Asian universities fare better than any European institutions, where the top school ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich is only 22. European universities are also “losing ground” to Asian schools. China has six schools in the top 100 and Japan also has six ranking as does Germany, the European country with the most universities in the top 100. Both China and Japan had each one more school ranking in the top 100 than last year, while in 2015’s ranking, 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 falls one to number 24. Meanwhile, the University of British Columbia is in second place in the country drops three spots to number 40. McGill University, which usually ranks as the top university in Canadian rankings, is only third in THE’s World Reputation Ranking of all Canadian schools, and also lost ground moving down three spots to tie for number 42 with the University of California, San Francisco, and LMU Munich.

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.”

THE’s Reputation Ranking mirrors THE’s World University Rankings in that most of the top 10 are the same but in vastly different spots. The biggest difference is that Yale University is included within the Reputation Ranking’s top 10, but misses it as 12th place in the World Ranking. While ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which is number 9 in the world ranking is absent from the Reputation Ranking top 10 and does not even hit the top 20. The World Ranking is far more objective than the perception of reputation and relies on factors including “teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.”

Top 10 World Reputation Rankings

2017 reputation rank — 2016 reputation rank — Institution Country — 2016–17 WUR position

1, 1 Harvard University, United States, 6
2, 2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States 5
3, 3 Stanford University, United States, 3
4, 4 University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, 4
4, 5 University of Oxford, United Kingdom, 1
6, 6 University of California, Berkeley, United States, 10
7, 7 Princeton University, United States, 7
8, 8 Yale University, United States, 12
9, 11 University of Chicago 10
10, 9 California Institute of Technology, United States, 2

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 Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.

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