Oxford tops 2016/17 Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Times Higher Education (THE) released their 2016/17 World University Rankings on Sept. 21, 2016, with Britain’s Oxford University taking the lead as the top school. Oxford breaks California Institute of Technology (Caltech) five-year record topping the World University Rankings this year, while the rest of the top ten stayed mostly the same. The 2017 ranking is the first year with a university outside the US topping the list.

The top 10 saw little movement this year the only significant change was in the top two universities switching places, and the University of California, Berkeley moving up three to tie the University of Chicago for 10th place. The top 10 again features one university outside of the United States and the United Kingdom, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. US universities dominate the top 10 and the ranking list in general.

The biggest news, however, from the 2017 world ranking was that Britain dethroned the US with the top university after 12 years. Times Higher Education expressed in their announcement, “This year’s list of the best universities in the world is led by a U.K. university for the first time in the 12-year history of the [list. It is the first time a U.S. institution does not take the top spot.” Phil Baty, the rankings editor at Times Higher Education, commented on Oxford rankings, “It is fantastic news that the University of Oxford has topped the world university rankings for the first time. It is a great result for the UK higher education sector and cements its position as one of the greatest university nations in the world.”

The UK position on top is still fragile, especially with Brexit. Baty advised, “The UK must ensure that it limits the damage to academics, students, universities and science during its Brexit negotiations to ensure it remains one of the world leaders in higher education.” Although this year, Britain topped the ranking, and are behind the US in the number of schools included, their schools are dropping in the ranking.

As the Independent pointed out, “THE’s list has come just weeks after the QS World University Rankings highlighted how post-Brexit uncertainty and long-term funding issues are starting to stir up challenges for the UK’s universities; 38 of the UK’s 48 top-400 universities dropped down the rankings, with the University of Cambridge dropping out of the global top three for the first time since 2004.”

The THE World University Rankings expanded this year’s rankings with more universities from more countries. This year they ranked 978 schools, last year they only looked at 800 institutions. Despite losing the top spot American universities still, dominate the ranking with a third (63) of the schools in the top 200 and 148 overall, while Britain has 16 percent, 32 and 91 schools overall, while Germany has 11 percent in the top 200, with 22 schools represented.

Asian universities are seeing their predominance continue in the THE rankings a trend that began last year. However, there are fewer universities from Japan in the ranking. In total, there are 289 Asian universities on the list from 24 countries, with 19 in the top 200. Baty remarked, “This is meant to be the year that China overtakes the U.S. on science research and science publication.” The top university in Asia is Japan’s National University of Singapore at 24; the school’s best showing.

The ranking’s methodology involves four leading indicators, “teaching, research, citations and international outlook,” however; research takes precedence over the others. Baty explained the ranking’s successful methodology, “The single biggest individual indicator is research impact. We’re looking at 56 million citations, 11.9 million research publications.” As the Wall Street Journal indicates, THE’s World Rankings differs from American rankings is because it factors “global reach and includes only universities.” Oxford edged out Caltech because of its international stature and research, and the resulting income from its research.

In Canada, the University of Toronto again topped the Canadian universities on the list. The University of Toronto moved down three to take the №22 position. The University of British Columbia moved down two to tied for 36, while McGill University moved down four spots to №42. While the top university in Oceania is Australia’s the University of Melbourne which at moved up eight to tie for №38.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an offset of the QS World University Ranking. In 2010, Times Higher Education formed a new partnership with Thomson Reuters in 2010 and created a new methodology. The ranking looks at a university’s “teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” Thomson Reuters utilizes 13 indicators to determine the results of the list, they are under five “overall indicators; “industry income, internationalism, teaching, research, and citations.”

The annual ranking includes ten additional lists covering subject fields, and universities in particular areas in addition to the main World University Rankings, which ranks the top 200 institutions. Subject field lists include; Arts & Humanities, Clinical, Pre-clinical & Health, Engineering & Technology, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and the Social Sciences. Additionally, THE publishes the 150 Under 50, ranking universities established in the past 50 years, uS College Rankings, Asia University Rankings, Latin American Rankings, and BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings.

This year Harvard University tops again THE’s World Reputation Rankings, another of the THE lists, which looks at the “top 100 most powerful global university brands.” The top ten is almost filled with American Ivy League universities. MIT moves up two to second place, while Stanford moves up two as well to third. British universities, University of Cambridge and world rankings top school Oxford each drop two to fourth and fifth place respectively. As for the rest of the top 10, University of California, Berkeley is sixth, Princeton University of seventh, Yale University is eighth, followed by Columbia University at ninth, with Caltech rounding out at tenth place.

Times Higher Education’s top 10 from their World University Rankings:

1 University of Oxford, United Kingdom (2)
2 California Institute of Technology, United States (2)
3 Stanford University, United States (3)
4 University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (4)
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States (5)
6 Harvard University, United States (6)
7 Princeton University, United States (7)
8 Imperial College London, United Kingdom (8)
9 ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland
10 University of Chicago, United States (10)
10 University of California, Berkeley (13)

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.

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