Recognised as one of the most reputable university rankings, and still a trendsetter and source of policy change for the global education sector, the Times Higher Education World Rankings (THE Rankings) have revealed in their latest findings the further decline and fall of public US institutions on the world stage. With the California Institute of Technology retaining its position as the highest-ranked university overall and with the top 10 dominated by US institutions, it would come as a surprise to many that US education is a state of rapid decline. With Asian universities rapidly gaining ground, do these findings point to a temporary lapse or a seismic shift in reputational and qualitative excellence in the United States?
Using a set of 13 indicators to gauge and normalize the data gathered, THE Ranking examines the strengths and weaknesses of global universities on a common grounding. Taking into account excellence and impact in research, knowledge transfer, international outlook and the teaching environment, THE Ranking set themselves apart from rival ranking tables by being the only report to measure international universities using an identical, shared methodology. As the ranking of choice for most industry experts, shrewd students, and protective parents, the surface hierarchy of US universities will come as no surprise. Here is the top 10 with global positioning stated in brackets:
1 (1) California Institute of Technology
2 (2) Harvard University
3 (4) Stanford University
4 (6) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5 (7) Princeton University
6 (8) University of California Berkeley
7 (9) Yale University
8 (11) University of Chicago
9 (12) University of California Los Angeles
10 (14) Colombia University
The only change in the top 10 from 2013/2014 comes in the subtle guise of Yale and the University Chicago swapping 7th place, with the latter falling one place in the national tables and 2 places overall. In 2013/2014 Harvard came out on top for research as they did in this year’s findings, while MIT continue to hold the top spot for the volume and impact of citations since 2011/2012 when they were tied with Princeton. Recalibrating the rankings by research excellence reveals the top three unchanged, but for industry income Harvard, Yale, and the University of Chicago show a disappointing average. International students eager to be surrounded by a cosmopolitan cohort should look to MIT, which came out on top in the top 10 for international outlook in terms of faculty and students, but was beaten by one institution further down the national table, the University of British Columbia.
But the wider data reveals a gradual decline of US hegemony, particularly with institutions ranked between 100 and 200th position. In the last year over half of US universities listed between those places in the table have dropped at least 5 spots. Those in the top 100 are cast in an even more depressing drama. Public institutions such as Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh and Purdue University have all been seen surging down the table. The result is a testament to the gradual weakening of public institutions due to lack of funds, which will only make the national reputation of US universities falter in the long term.