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QS World Rankings: Emerging stars challenge Europe’s competitors

The 13th edition of the QS World University Rankings is out this month, and so are this year’s rising and falling stars. The US continues to dominate the ranks, MIT placed first at the global top, followed by Stanford and Harvard. This year’s ranking retains stability at the top 10 band, but the further down the lines  one progresses, challengers emerge that have been steadily gaining ground over the years – highlighting shifts in representational power from western European contenders, to top institutions from emerging and middle income economies.

Asia is experiencing continued momentum with an increasing number of its institutions moving up the ranks. University of Singapore placed 12th and continues to occupy the continent’s pole position. Three of China’s universities secure a spot in the top 50, Tsinghua and Peking University, its front runners, alongside Hong Kong likewise locking down three places in this band. Continually climbing are also South Korea and Malaysia’s top universities, and Japan is picking up the pace, after facing declines in forgone years.
Russia is getting close to entering the global top 100 band , Lomonosov National State University its best performer being eight spots away from making the cut, and a large proportion of its institutions improving their positions, four jumping by an impressive 100 spots this year.

Africa’s universities continue to struggle in leaving their mark, counting among its losses the University of Cape Town who moved down 20 places alongside others. Stellenbosch University on a brighter note, made it into the top 400. Latin America joins the struggle, although for the first time makes an appearance in the Top 100 with its Universidad de Buenos Aires placing 85th. The  Universidade de São Paulo is Brazil’s best performer at place 120. Australia and Canada slightly increase their representation in the top 200.   

Performances of several European institutions are on the downward trend – affecting such countries as Germany, France, Portugal and Italy. The UK also shows signs of distress with 38 institutions dropping down the ranks. The University of Cambridge is for the first time in 12 years giving up its spot in the top three, slipping to fourth. Switzerland poses an exception in the EU context as ETH Zurich continues on a winning streak and claims Imperial college London’s previous spot in the top 10.

QS argues that the trends reflected, link to a divide between those parts of the world committed to increasing funds to boost their education and research, as opposed to those with declining and/or stagnate funding streams.

Asia is currently at the forefront of increasing funding levels, looking to collect the payoff of dedicated programmes such as China’s 211 and 985 initiatives or Russia’s 5-100 initiative, and working to develop strong internationalisation strategies. Perhaps it is not a surprising, but only natural development that emerging economies are gaining ground on the familiar European and US heavy weights, with various prominent global rankings reflecting this trend (see ACA Newsletter Education Europe, July 2016).

QS Rankings 2016/17 – press release