Following the rise of Asia as a higher-education powerhouse, European universities have found themselves facing an entirely new level of international competition. Indeed, Asian universities have substantially increased their presence in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, with many Chinese and Indian universities recording their highest rankings to date. Interestingly, however, of the four universities entering the top 200 this year, three are in mainland Europe and one in Africa. Is this just a fluke? Or, faced with the unstoppable rise of Asia, is Europe fighting back?
University of Hamburg(Germany) Following its
Following its absence from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings since 2012, Hamburg leaps back into the top 200 of the world’s leading universities, appearing at position 180. The university, which has produced no less than five Nobel Prizewinners since its founding in 1919, is one of 22 German institutions in the top 200, up from 20 in the previous rankings. It’s also one of two German universities to make its debut in the top 200 in this year’s rankings.
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
The Unive r s i t y o f the Witwatersrand, or Wits University as it’s commonly known, has had its highest ever rankings placement at 182. Not only does this make it the only non-European institution on the list of debutants, but it also marks the first time ever that Africa has had two universities in the top 200. The Johannesburg-based institution also closes the gap on the University of Cape Town, consistently South Africa’s highestranked university, to just 32 places, its narrowest ever gap.
University of Duisburg- Essen (Germany)
Coming in at 19 7 , the University of Duisburg-Essen represents another big win for German universities in this year’s rankings. Indeed, no German institution in the top 200 last year dropped out of the top 200 this year. Germany is also the most represented country in the top 200 after the UK and the US, which is remarkable given how cheap higher education can be in Germany in comparison to these two traditional heavyweights.
Tilburg University (Netherlands)
It’s not just Germany that can take pride in the top 200 performance of its universities. For the first time ever, all of the Netherlands’ 13 ranked institutions find themselves in the top 200, with Tilburg making its debut at 198th position. In fact, eight of the 13 Dutch universities are in the top 100, making the Netherlands one of the best represented countries in that category. All in all, it’s not just the University of Oxford’s place at the top of the rankings that gives Europe something to boast about. While the number of Asian institutions has increased substantially over the past few years, at the very top end Europe still shows it has the muscle to compete.
Top 5 universities in the world
1. University of Oxford Until now, the top university in the world has always been one of the elite American institutions, but this year one of the most prestigious universities in the UK has come out on top. The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the UK and one of the best known in the world. Currently, there are more than 22,600 students at Oxford, with an almost even number of undergraduates and postgraduates. About 95 per cent of Oxford graduates are either employed or in postgraduate study within six months of leaving. Admissions are extremely competitive; on average the university receives five applications for every place. About 18,300 students applied for 3,200 undergraduate places in 2015. The university employs staff from just under 100 different countries and foreign citizens make up about 41 per cent of the student and academic body.
2. California Institute of Technology One of the most striking features of Caltech is its unusually small size; only about 1,000 undergraduates and 1,250 postgraduates are enrolled there. The college boasts a 3:1 student-to-staff ratio. Caltech aims to foster an interdisciplinary environment in which students learn about and tackle the most challenging and fundamental scientific or technological problems. The institution dates to 1891 when it was founded as Throop University. It assumed its current name in 1920. There were 6,506 applicants for the entry class who will graduate in 2019 and 99 per cent of the students accepted across all years were in the top 10 per cent of their high school class. More than half of Caltech students receive need-based financial support. The average financial aid package is $38,983 (£29,890). Caltech’s mascot is a beaver, “nature’s engineer”. Among the unusual features of the university are the customary cookie break taken every Thursday by physicists and their students, and the university’s status as a distributor of olive oil.
3. Stanford University Stanford has generated many startups and entrepreneurs and was partly responsible for the development of neighbouring Silicon Valley. Not only do students go on to achieve great things, but in the current academic community there are 20 Nobel laureates. The large campus is home to 97 per cent of undergraduates and nearly 700 major university buildings, alongside museums, gardens and recreational centres. Currently, there are just under 6,994 undergraduates and 9,128 graduates at the university, with a 4:1 student-tostaff ratio. Research at Stanford uses a $1.22 billion budget in total and more than 5,000 of the projects are externally funded.
4. University of Cambridge Cambridge operates on a collegiate system, much like the University of Oxford. Almost all of the 18,000 students belong to a college or hall, where they have the option to live, study and sleep on site. In Cambridge, there are 31 colleges and 150 academic departments. The university has a long and prestigious history dating back to 1209, when scholars in Oxford fled to Cambridge after clashes with local people. Many famous politicians, cultural figures and scientists spent time in Cambridge, including Isaac Newton and John Harvard, who would go on to found Harvard University. Every college has unique traditions and all students matriculate in a formal ceremony when arriving at the university.
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Massachusetts Institute of Technology dates back to the middle of the 19th century and has always endeavoured to provide financial aid to students on a needs basis. The very first architecture classes anywhere in the US were taught at MIT. The first female student, Ellen Swallow Richards, was admitted to the chemistry department in 1871. Just two years later the first international student – from Canada – graduated from MIT. The campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, includes 18 student residences, many gardens and public works of art. Admission to the university is extremely selective; only 8 per cent of applicants won a place in the graduating class of 2019. Graduates are employed by top companies, including Google, Amazon and Apple.