Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

ARWU 2015: Few changes, fewer surprises

The 13th edition of the ARWU Shanghai ranking, published in mid-August, displays no major changes since 2014, particularly not in the order of 10 highest-performing universities. Harvard is still firm in its top position, with the traditional top-ten suite of the US high-achievers (Stanford, MIT, Berkley, Princeton, California Institute of Technology, Columbia and Chicago) joined by the UK Oxbridge duo, all in their 2014 positions.  

The expanded scoreboard of the 20 top-placed universities shows slight changes for ETH Zurich, sliding from the 19th place in 2014 back to the 20th position of 2013. UCL, on the contrary, has gone two places up and is now sharing the 18th place with the University of California, San Francisco. John Hopkins and Penn have swapped 16th and 17th places this year, with the former winning out (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, Not many changes in geographical distribution either: the US maintains its position at the forefront with 16 institutions in top 20 and 146 in top 500, followed by China with 44 and Germany with 39 institutions in the top 500. Australia’s Queensland University of Technology is the first-timer on the ARWU Shanghai ranking, rounding up the total number of Australian representatives to 20 this year.

The two ARWU disciplinary rankings (by broader fields and by more specific subjects) feature most of the already top scoring universities with the exception of the Mathematics league table, where the picture is slightly more diverse with two French, two UK and one Saudi Arabian universities appearing among the ten highest-ranked institutions (respectively Pierre and Marie Curie University at 5th, Paris-Sud at 10th, Oxford at 7th, Cambridge at 9th and King Abdulaziz University at 6th place). 

Just like in previous years, this year’s ARWU scoreboard is led by US and UK universities, with only very few highest spots taken by universities predominantly from ‘continental’ Europe, who keep reshuffling for a place or two year after year. The question remains whether the methodology of the ARWU ranking allows at all for any major change on the list, particularly given its strong focus on Nobel and Field awardees among staff and alumni. Its annually published results undoubtedly stir the academic waters and many institutions have their goals set around ARWU be it for promotional or scientific purposes, and be it the question of prestige or quality.