Harvard remains on top of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2017–18

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

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Harvard University is the world’s best university and at the top of the most academic fields according to Shanghai Rankings’2017 edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS). Wikipedia Commons

Early in the college ranking season and Harvard University is dominating as the best school nationally and internationally. The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) released their annual ranking on Aug. 15, 2017, with Harvard University again topping the best 800 universities in the world for the 15th year. Harvard also tops the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) 2017 released earlier this summer on June 28. On the GRAS ranking of 52 subjects, Harvard dominates and is the best university for 15 subjects. The ARWU is one of only two major rankings that are not published by a western country in either the United States or the United Kingdom. Shanghai Ranking Consultancy compiles ARWU in China.

For the 15th straight year, Harvard University topped the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)’s list. The top ten’s schools are unchanged from last year’s rankings and consist of eight American universities and two British institutions, but they moved around in their ranking. The world ranking also includes the national ranks for each school represented on the list.

Stanford University remains in second place, The United Kingdom’s top school, the University of Cambridge, moves up one to third place. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology moves up one to fourth place. The University of California Berkeley is again the top public school in the ranking. UC Berkley rounds out the top five moving down from third to fifth place.

In the second half of the top ten, Princeton is only the other university to maintain its spot, staying in sixth place for the past three years. The University of Oxford remains for the second year stagnated in the seventh spot. Columbia University, the third Ivy League university in the ranking behind Harvard and Princeton moves up one to eighth place. While the California Institute of Technology, Caltech moved down one to ninth place. The University of Chicago completes the top ten holding the same spot for the last two years.

The top ranking university in continental Europe is ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) remaining in 19th place. Denmark’s University of Copenhagen remains at 30th maintaining the spot as Continental Europe’s second best university, while France’s Pierre & Marie Curie University stays at third place in Europe, but moves down to the 40th place overall.

The list includes a rising number of Asian universities with The University of Tokyo as the top Asian university on the list, but moves out of the top 20, down four to the 24th position. Australia’s the University of Melbourne is the top university in the Oceania region and moves up to 39th place. Israel’s universities nose-dived this year. The Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) remains Israel’s top school, but its ranking dived from 67 down 26 places to number 93, barely staying in the top 100. While Hebrew University continues its slide from 87 to the unranked 100–150 position in the list.

The top Canadian university is the University of Toronto moving up four to 23rd place, making Canada the fourth top ranking country on the list. The University of British Columbia moved up three top the 31st spot and second in Canada. This year Canada has a new university in third McMaster University moves in the spot long held by Canadian ranking’s top school, McGill University. McMaster moved up an impressive 17 places and now sits in the 66th spot. McGill moved down three spots to 67th place. McMaster’s move changes Canada’s top internationally ranked universities, which have always been the big three of U of T, UBC, and McGill in various orders.

The United States dominates the ranking as it does with all the global lists, with 48 universities in the top 100, and 16 schools alone in the top 20 and 135 universities in the entire ranking. The United Kingdom loses their second place in the number of universities represented to China, part of the trend in the rise in prominence of Asian schools. China now has “57 universities in the top 500” while the UK only has 38. Although Asian schools have been rising the rankings, their preeminent turn in the ARWU rankings might have to do with the rankings parent company being set in China.

Brexit has been affecting British schools in the rankings and with applications and enrollment. The UK retains their second place when it comes to the number of schools in the top 100 with nine universities and Australia is third in the top 100 with six schools and 23 overall. There are 18 universities appearing in the ranking for the first time, while only five schools broke into the top 100 first time, including “Erasmus University in Netherlands and Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.” This year the ranking increased from 500 universities to ranking 800 schools worldwide.

ARWU is primarily based on scientific research to determine the ranking, and its subject rankings heavily look at the sciences except for the social sciences and economics. The Academic Ranking of World Universities methodology solely relies on Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), and based the ranking of the universities by the most “highly cited researchers.” The Clarivate Analytics is “updated annually using a 10-year performance window.” Most of the citations are scientific research explaining why Asian universities are rapidly excelling versus universities such as those in the UK that emphasize the humanities.

According to Shanghai Ranking their methodology uses six indicators, “including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of Highly Cited Researchers, the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index — Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance.”

ShanghaiRanking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) compromises lists ranking 52 subjects in five fields “natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, medical sciences and social sciences.” The socials sciences include more business related subjects than actual social science disciplines. Like the ARWU, the emphasis is on the sciences with the social sciences taking a back burner and the humanities entirely omitted. It should not be a surprise to see in the GRAS Harvard is again the big winner topping 15 subjects. Harvard excels in the social sciences and earned top marks for seven social sciences disciplines including law and only four within the medical sciences. Harvard also tops Library and Information Science despite not having a program offering degrees in the field.

The US again dominates the GRAS rankings taking honors in 32 out of the 52 subjects. Second in the ranking is China with eight subjects followed by the Netherlands helming five subjects. The UK only tops three subjects, “geography (University of Oxford), ecology (University of Oxford) and mechanical engineering (University of Cambridge).” In the US, second to Harvard is MIT, who has honors in five subjects, including four in engineering fields.

Stanford, which is second in the ARWU ranking, only tops two subjects Environmental Science and Engineering and Education. Among the other American schools, topping two subjects are the University of Pennsylvania (Nursing and Business Administration) and the University of California, Berkeley (Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Chemistry) with the best public school showing again.

Universities outside the US appearing multiple times are Britain’s Oxford (geography and ecology), the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology (Water Resources and Transportation Science and Technology), and the University of Wageningen (Agricultural Sciences and Food Science & Technology) which is another school from the Netherlands. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University is the only Asian school to top two subjects (Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Energy Science and Engineering).

The GRAS includes “1400 universities from 80 countries” in the 52 lists. As for frequency, American schools “appear 3857 times, followed by Chinese universities (1652 times) and universities from the United Kingdom (1168 times).” The two schools that appear the most in the subject rankings are “The Ohio State University — Columbus and the University of New South Wales.”

Like the ARWU, GRAS relies heavily on citations as their ranking methodology. To determine the lists Shanghai Ranking looks at “the number of papers authored by an institution in an academic subject, international collaboration on papers, and the number of staff winning awards in an academic subject.” According to Shanghai Ranking, they “measure” “research productivity, research quality, the extent of international collaboration, research with top quality, and the highest academic recognitions.” The ranking uses bibliometric data from Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science and InCites. To determine Award winners Shanghai Ranking utilizes the Academic Excellence Survey.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities compromises of three different separate rankings; World Top 800 Universities; World Top 200 Universities in Broad Subject Fields, and World Top 200 Universities by Subject Fields. Shanghai Ranking Consultancy has been publishing the list since 2003.

Academic Ranking of World Universities ARWU’s top 10 world universities:

1 (1) Harvard University USA
2 (2) Stanford University USA
3 (4) University of Cambridge UK
4 (5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
5 (3) University of California, Berkeley USA
6 (6) Princeton University USA
7 (7) University of Oxford UK
8 (9) Columbia University USA
9 (8) California Institute of Technology USA
10 (10) University of Chicago USA

Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) 2017 52 subjects:

Natural Sciences
Mathematics Princeton University USA
Physics Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Chemistry University of California, Berkeley USA
Earth Sciences Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland
Geography University of Oxford UK
Ecology University of Oxford UK

Mechanical Engineering University of Cambridge UK
Electrical & Electronic Engineering University of California, Berkeley USA
Automation & Control Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Telecommunication Engineering Tsinghua University China
Instruments Science & Technology Harbin Institute of Technology China
Biomedical Engineering Harvard University USA
Computer Science & Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Civil Engineering Tongji University China
Chemical Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Materials Science & Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA
Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Nanyang Technological University Singapore
Energy Science & Engineering Nanyang Technological University Singapore
Environmental Science & Engineering Stanford University USA
Water Resources Delft University of Technology Netherlands
Food Science & Technology University of Wageningen Netherlands
Biotechnology Harvard University USA
Aerospace Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology USA
Marine/Ocean Engineering Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
Transportation Science & Technology Delft University of Technology Netherlands
Remote Sensing Wuhan University China
Mining & Mineral Engineering University of Science and Technology Beijing China Metallurgical Engineering Central South University China

Life Sciences
Biological Sciences Harvard University USA
Human Biological Sciences Harvard University USA
Agricultural Sciences University of Wageningen Netherlands
Veterinary Sciences Ghent University Belgium

Medical Sciences
Clinical Medicine Harvard University USA
Public Health Harvard University USA
Dentistry & Oral Sciences University of Michigan-Ann Arbor USA
Nursing University of Pennsylvania USA
Medical Technology Harvard University USA
Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences Harvard University USA

Social Sciences
Economics University of Chicago USA
Statistics Harvard University USA
Law Harvard University USA
Political Sciences Harvard University USA
Sociology Harvard University USA
Education Stanford University USA
Communication The Ohio State University — Columbus USA
Psychology Harvard University USA
Business Administration University of Pennsylvania USA
Finance New York University USA
Management Harvard University USA
Public Administration Erasmus University Netherlands
Hospitality & Tourism Management The Hong Kong Polytechnic University China-Hong Kong Library & Information Science Harvard University USA

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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