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Headlines Published on 31 December 2003

Title Chinese study ranks world’s top 500 universities

European universities scrape by with a pass mark, according to a new academic ranking of the world’s best schools of higher learning released by researchers from Shanghai’s institute of higher education.

European universities ranked fifth and ninth on the ladder in terms of research and academic performance © Image: web graphics
European universities ranked fifth and ninth on the ladder in terms of research and academic performance

© Image: web graphics
Oxford and Cambridge Universities are conspicuous as the only two European centres of higher learning to be in the top ten ranking of the world’s best universities compiled by a prestigious Chinese institute. The ‘Academic Ranking of World Universities 2003’ report, carried out by researchers at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Institute of Higher Education, ranks the world’s top 500 universities on academic and research performance.

It placed the ‘Oxbridge’ pair in the top ten chart – Cambridge beating its UK rival with its fifth place versus Oxford’s ninth. But the real winner is the United States: all but 15 of the top 50 universities are American. The universities of Harvard and Stanford take the honours, followed by their west-coast challengers, California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkley.

According to the research team, “Many students, faculties, institutions, governments and the public in general are interested in rankings of universities for different purposes. However, the quality or reputation of universities cannot be precisely measured by mere numbers. It would be impossible to quantitatively evaluate universities worldwide because of the huge differences of universities in the large variety of countries and the technical difficulties in obtaining internationally comparable data.”

Nevertheless, two years ago, the team decided to establish its own academic ranking of universities by looking at how well each university measures up against a set of criteria. “After two years of hard work, we [have] come up with [this report]. We hope the ranking will help you to compare and identify universities.”

Measuring up
The universities were carefully evaluated using several indicators of research performance, including the number of highly cited researchers, academic performance, the prevalence of articles published in the scientific journals Science and Nature, and the number of Nobel laureates produced within the hallowed halls of these centres of learning.

For example, in the ‘highly cited researcher’ category, the team studied citations by 21 broad subject categories in the life sciences, medicine, physical sciences, engineering and social sciences between 1981 and 1999.

Anglo-Saxon universities clearly dominate the top 50, filling the first 18 places on the list. Tokyo University (JP) is in 19th place. Also in the top 50, two east-coast Canadian universities are in 23rd and 35th place, and the Australian National University just scrapes in at 49th. Two Zurich-based learning houses also make the best-of list: the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ranked 25) and the University of Zurich (45).

Other high-ranking European universities include London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (UK) in 17th place, followed by its neighbour, University College London in 20th. On the Continent, noteworthy entries include Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute (SE), ranked 39, the University of Utrecht (NL) in 40th place, and the University of Munich (DE) squeezing in the top 50 at number 48 on the ladder.

Source:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University

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More information:

  • Results of the 2003 Shanghai study
  • Nobel laureates
  • Highly cited researchers

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