University Rankings 2017 roundup American universities threatened by the UK and Europe

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

The 2016–17 rankings season is officially over with the release on February 1, 2017, Times of Higher Education’s newest ranking the inaugural edition of the world’s most international universities. The season catering to college-bound high school students and their parents began in July and finally ended this month. The rankings showcased lists that were national covering only colleges and universities in the United States, but also international lists were American schools competed with high regarded and older universities in the United Kingdom, Europe and the emerging threat of rising Asian schools.

Although the US dominated the rankings in sheer numbers as they always have this year was the first time non-American schools topped international rankings posing a threat to America’s ranking dominance in higher education. On the home front, there was also a shift emerging from the Ivy League in the east to the west with Stanford University being named the top university in two out of three major national rankings. That wave to the west was not as attractive on the international front. When an American school topped an international ranking, it was the jewel of the Ivies Harvard University that claimed the coveted top spot, claiming the throne on three major ranking lists including one published in the US.

Time Higher Education two main rankings their flagship 2016/17 World University Rankings and their latest addition the Most International Universities proved how vulnerable American preeminence in higher education is at the top. Both rankings had non-American schools at the top of their lists. With the World rankings a British schools for the first time dethroned the US, while in the Most International Universities rankings British, European Asian schools left the US out in the cold in not only the top ten but also the top 20 of the ranking.

When Times Higher Education released on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, their inaugural ranking of the Most International Universities looking at global reputation and connections, 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.

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 broke 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 biggest news, however, from the 2017 world ranking was that Britain dethroned the US with the top university after 12 years, this 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.

In the remaining rankings released this past season, American schools fared better continuing their dominance here is a rundown of the rankings lists:

National Rankings

Forbes Magazine America’s Top 100 Colleges

Forbes Magazine was again the first list to release their national ranking of American colleges and universities. Forbes released their ninth annual ranking of America’s Top 100 Colleges on July 7, 2016, placing the most selective school Stanford University in the top spot. Former Top 100 Colleges Williams College is second after Stanford followed Princeton University in third, which happens to be the top Ivy League university on the list. In fourth place are Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology rounding out the top five. The remaining top 10 has Yale at №6, and Pomona College at №7. The last remaining schools respectively are Brown University, Wesleyan University, and Swarthmore College.

According to Forbes, the ninth edition of the ranking has a theme of “higher ed in transition.” The top schools are shifting from the East Coast to the West Coast, with Stanford University being the top college in the country and the most selective university. Stanford receives the most applications and admits the least percentage of students. According to Forbes, Stanford “emerged as the nation’s preeminent university,” while “students all over the world are increasingly drawn to the nowness of the West Coast.”

US News’ 2017 Best Colleges

U.S. News & World Report the standard-bearers in the national university and college rankings game released the first of two major college and university rankings for the season. On Sept. 13, 2016, US News released their Best Colleges rankings for 2017 online. Princeton, Williams, and Berkley all saw repeat visits to the top of the rankings with Princeton №1 for the fourth year of all Best National Universities, while Williams remains the Best National Liberal Arts College for the past 15 years. Berkley reined the Top Public Universities as it has for the last 19 years, and the United States Naval Academy is first of the Top Public National Liberal Arts Colleges.

This year there was a shake-up in the top three in both Best National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges. Most notably in the Best National Universities list, although Harvard remained in second place, the University of Chicago that moved up one to tie Yale University for the third spot. Columbia and Stanford Universities both dropped one spot to being tied for fourth to tied for fifth. The University of Pennsylvania dropped one spot from eighth to ninth place, while the California Institute of Technology drops out of the top 10 from being tied for 10th place to №12.

The top three Best National Liberal Arts Colleges also remained unchanged, with Williams College on top and Amherst in second. The middle of the top changed dramatically with Wellesley College moved up to third, Middlebury College and Swarthmore College tied for fourth and Bowdoin College moved down to sixth. In the second half of the top 10 Carleton College moved up one to seventh place, while formerly fourth place Pomona College dropped three to seventh. The only public school United States Naval Academy dropped out of the top 10 from ninth to 12th place.

Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education college rankings

The nation’s most selective college Stanford University is on top of the inaugural Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education college rankings. WSJ and THE released the first joint ranking of American colleges on Sept. 28, 2016, where the top ten included some of the country’s most elite universities including seven belonging to the Ivy League. Stanford is the top of not only WSJ/THE ranking but also Forbes 2016 American Top College rankings and was MONEY’s top school in 2015.

This new ranking focuses heavily on the outcomes of getting a degree from one the institutions. The ranking’s methodology looks at some factors including “salaries of graduates and debt repayment rates, school reputation, research impact, and how much a college spends to educate each student.” The WSJ also ranked universities on specific factors, “Resources (#1: Harvard University), Student Outcomes (#1: Yale University), Engagement (#1: Dordt College), Environment (#1: La Sierra University).”

World Rankings

Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)

The first major university ranking of the year released is the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), who publishes their list way before the start of the new academic year. On July 11, 2016, the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) released their ranking of the Top 1000 Universities in the world. Harvard topped their list for the fifth time. After Harvard, the rest of the top three remains the same as last year with Stanford second and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) third.

Two British universities round out the top five as last year, with the University of Cambridge in fourth place closely followed by the University of Oxford rounding out the top five. The top 10 had little movement with one exception Yale reemerged to reclaim the tenth place after dropping to eleventh place last year, while Cornell moved back out of the top ten down to twelfth place.

The US dominated the CWUR rankings as it does with most other world university rankings. There were 224 American schools in the top 1000. The CWUR ranking shows how preeminent Asian schools are becoming globally, here they follow the US in the most school represented an honor usually reserved for the United Kingdom. There are 90 universities from China and 74 from Japan on the list with Britain in fourth with only 65 schools. The UK however, is the only other country to break American dominance in the top ten.

Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) released their annual ranking lists on Aug. 15, 2016, with Harvard University again topping the best 500 universities in the world for the 14th year. 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.

Stanford University remains in second place, but the University of California Berkeley, the top public school, moves up to third. The United Kingdom’s top school, the University of Cambridge, moves up one to fourth place, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology falls two to round up the top five.

In the second half of the top ten, Princeton is only the other university to maintain its spot, staying in sixth place. The University of Oxford is the greatest gainer in the top ten going up from tenth to seventh. While the California Institute of Technology Caltech, Columbia University and the University of Chicago each moved down one, to eighth, ninth, and tenth place respectively.

The United States dominates the rankings as it does with all the global lists, while the United Kingdom is in second place. The US holds 15 of the top 20 spots, the UK has three spots, but this year the usual American and British dominance are challenged with the addition of a Swiss and Japanese university. Although most of the schools in the ranking are from the US and Europe, Asian universities are seeing their numbers rise, with China and Singapore seeing one school crack the top 100 for the first time, China’s Tsinghua University is 58th, while Singapore’s National University of Singapore clocks in at 83.

QS World University Rankings

For the fifth year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is sitting on the top of the QS World University Rankings’ Top Universities. QS World University Rankings released their 2015/16 ranking on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2016, and the first time in the ranking’s history the top three is all American schools, with MIT, Stanford and Harvard University making a trifecta.

The top 10 shows an almost even balance between American and British universities with one continental European institution Switzerland’s ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at eighth place breaking up what has been for years an exclusive club. “Academic reputation” is the most important determining factor for the lists, and it is reflected by the universities represented in the ranking.

This year there are five American (MIT (1), Stanford (2), Harvard (3), Caltech (5), the University of Chicago (10)). And four British universities (Cambridge (4), Oxford (6), University College of London (7), Imperial College of London (9)) in the top 10. The top Ivy League school on the list is Harvard at №3 down one spot from last year. The 2017 ranking is the first year where a British school did not occupy one of the top three spots. Britain’s leading school, the University of Cambridge, moves down one to fourth place.

Two of the four British universities in the top 10 moved down a spot from last year, showing a troubling trend for British universities throughout the ranking. Meanwhile, there are 11 American universities in the top 20, while there are five British universities in the top 20. In this year’s edition, there are four universities outside of the US and the UK in the top 20, two from Switzerland, and two from Singapore.

The QS World University Rankings consistently includes more non-US and on-UK universities in the top 20 than any of the other international rankings. There are 81 countries represented in the ranking of 916 schools 25 more than last year’s edition. The Unites States has the most universities in the ranking top 200 with a quarter, 48 schools, Britain follows in second place with 30 of the top 200 universities.

US News and World Report 2017 Best Global Universities Rankings

Harvard University remains the top university in the world according to US News and World Report’s third annual Best Global Universities Rankings, US News released the 2017 ranking on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. The biggest international university ranking looked at the best schools by “region, country, and subject.” This year’s ranking increased the number of school from 750 to 1000 from 65 countries in the world up from 57, giving each one a score out of 100.

There was a lot of movement in the top 10 of the ranking. As for the rest of the top three, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is second, and Stanford University moves up to third. Princeton joined the top 10 moving from 13 to number on the list, while the University of Chicago dropped out of the top 10 down to number 13. The top 20 also saw some changes, 17 schools were from the US, with three from the UK including the Imperial College of London at 19. There was also a new entry to the top 20, the University of California San Francisco, a graduate school for the sciences moved up to number 17.

American universities dominated the entire ranking as they did the top 10 with 210 institutions, followed by China with 87 schools continuing the rise of Asian schools and the UK was third with 68 schools, in continental Europe Germany had 55 institutions in the ranking, while France had 49. The United Kingdom pierced the top universities with Oxford University at №6 and the University of Cambridge at №7, both moving down one spot. The US also leads in schools specializing in the arts and humanities, clinical medicine, computer science economics and business and engineering. The UK comes in second in the arts and humanities.

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.

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

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