Harvard remains on top of Times Higher Education’s World Reputation Rankings for eighth 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 Wednesday, May 30, 2018, The Times Higher Education released their eighth annual World Reputation Ranking with Harvard University remaining in the top spot for seven years in a row. American and universities have held steady despite concerns over Donald Trump’s presidency. British universities have not held up as well after the vote for Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union. Asian universities, however, have also stalled despite their recent rise.

Eight of the top 10 were American universities, with only the United Kingdom breaking up their domination. The top three remains the same as last year and 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 at fourth and Oxford down one to fifth place.

There was little movement in the middle of the top ten. The University of California, Berkeley remains in sixth place, Princeton University stays in seventh, while Yale University remains in eighth place. The big change was at the bottom of the top 10, the University of Chicago stays at ninth but now shares the position, tied with new top ten entry, the University of California, Los Angeles for ninth. The California Institute of Technology, Caltech drops off out of the top ten moving from 10th to 11th position.

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 44 institutions represented in the top 100, 28 alone in the top 50, with Harvard the top ranking. Despite, concerns that President Donald Trump’s immigration policies would turn off international students, and affect American universities standings that have not been the case.

Baty commented on American universities standing in the world, saying, “What is particularly striking is that the U.S. has actually strengthened its position in the world… despite fears that the U.S. is suffering a ‘Trump slump’ in terms of its global reputation. While we have seen evidence that some international students are seeing the U.S. as a less attractive option, with declining applications, this data from the global academic community suggests the top U.S. universities remain the most highly regarded in the world by a mile.”

In the second place, the United Kingdom has the second most universities in the ranking, with the University of Cambridge as the country’s the top school and Oxford University also in the top five breaking up the American monopoly. The UK, however, has not fared as well as post-Brexit, exit from the European Union vote. UK universities slipped in the new ranking, from a British publication no less. Last year there were 10 schools in the top 100, this year they have nine, with Durham University falling below the top 100. Other schools saw their numbers fall, King’s College London (41st) and Edinburgh (34th), both lost one place in the ranking. While top 20 schools, University College London (18th) and Imperial College (20th), both lost two positions from last year. The London School of Economics saw the greatest loss, going from 20th to 25th place this edition.

Brexit is not the only issue plaguing, British universities, some schools did poorly in the Government’s new Teaching Excellence Framework, which looks at “quality of teaching” in high education. There have been issues and controversies on campus, which scandals and questioning the “excessive pays” for university administration, while “snowflake” students are hindering freedom of speech, and do not want to be taught controversial topics.

Alan Smithers, a professor of education at the University of Buckingham, told the Daily Mail, “This hasn’t been a good year for the reputation of the UK’s universities, with rows about pay, safe spaces and freedom of speech. We need to up our game to ensure that the falls this year are not the beginning of a trend.”

Neither is Asian universities taking over the ranking has been the trend in recent years, while American and British are getting votes from all over the world, Asian schools get their votes mostly in the region, their brands are regional only. Many schools from China and Japan have lost ground in the ranking. China has six schools in the top 100, with three of them falling the ranking, however, China’s best school’s Tsinghua and Peking Universities remain in the top 20, at 14th and 17th place as they were in 2017. Japan’s standing is in the most trouble among Asian schools, they lose one school in the top 100, going down to five. However, the highest-ranking university outside the US and UK comes from Japan with The University of Tokyo at the 13th place down from 11th last year.

Simon Marginson, an analyst and director of University College London’s Centre for Global Higher Education, claims the difference is because of “improved real performance and the reputational effects it generates.” According to Marginson, top universities in the US and the UK “earned their reputations over the whole 20th century and beyond and have not slipped in standard, so they are difficult to displace.” Asian universities including from Singapore and South Korea, “only really showed themselves as strong in the 1990s, and China’s rise is essentially post-2000.” Baty also indicates that Asian, particularly Chinese schools rose quickly, but now “stalled.” According to Baty, “This new data shows just how hard it is for emerging powers to break into the traditional global elite.”

The three Asian universities fare better than any European institutions, where the top school ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which remains at 22, but now, tied with Canada’s University of Toronto. European universities are also “losing ground.” Germany, the European country with the most universities in the top 100 still has their six, but three of them are ranking lowered than the last edition. Australia’s universities have also dropped in the ranking, although they maintain three in the top 100, two have fallen since last year, the University of Melbourne is the top school at tied for 47th place. In the Middle East, Israel’s highest-ranking school remains the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; it enters the top 100 in the 91–100 position.

Canada has three universities in the top 100, with the University of Toronto, the country’s top school moving up from 24 to tie for 22nd position. Meanwhile, the University of British Columbia is in second place in the country moves up two spots to number 38. 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 moves up, one place to 41st.

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.”

Top 10 World Reputation Rankings

2018 reputation rank — 2017 reputation rank — Institution Country

1, 1 Harvard University, United States,

2, 2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States

3, 3 Stanford University, United States,

4, 4 University of Cambridge, United Kingdom,

5, 5 University of Oxford, United Kingdom,

6, 6 University of California, Berkeley, United States

7, 7 Princeton University, United States, 7

8, 8 Yale University, United States, 12

=9, 13 University of California, Los Angeles

=9, 9 University of Chicago

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 over 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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