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ARWU: The usual suspects in the lead

Shanghai Jia Tong University just published the 18th edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). This global ranking was originally developed on request of the Chinese government to be able to measure the progress of the quality of research of Chinese universities in a global comparison. Launched in 2003, this year saw the 18th edition. ARWU triggered off a whole series of new global rankings, such as the World University Ranking, an annual ranking exercise of Times Higher Education, started in 2010.

The 2020 edition, which lists 1,000 institutions in all continents of the world, displays a picture similar to that of previous years. As in so many years, the top ten consist of two UK institutions (‘Oxbridge’) as well as eightUS universities, with Harvard and Stanford in the lead. Among the top-ranked 100 higher education institutions, there are 41 from the US and eight from the UK. In continental Europe, France has the highest number among the top 10, i.e. five, followed by Germany (with four). But smaller countries, such as Switzerland, also have five institutions in the top 100, and countries like the Netherlands and Sweden punch above their weight with four and three respectively. Russia has just one university in the top one hundred.

The rise of Asian universities, which characterised the middle years of ARWU, has not continued at the same pace in 2020. The top-ranked Asian University among the first 100 is Tokyo University (at rank 25) followed by Chinese higher education institutions. Overall, there are six Chinese and three Japanese institutions in the top 100.

Astonishing: the institution on rank 100, Fudan University, has only 25 points, i.e. a quarter of top-ranked Harvard. Below Fudan, the 900 remaining universities in AWRU hardly matter at all. Is this credible?


The Shanghai ranking is available here.