2014 Ranking of the World’s Best Research Universities

Posted on February 28, 2015  Comments (1)

Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University produces an annual ranking of research universities. The methodology values publications and faculty awards (Nobel and Fields) which belies the focus on ranking research not for example the quality of education provided.

You could argue one measure does partially address teaching as the Nobel and Fields prizes to alumni are created to the institution (that is separate from a measure of faculty that receive those honors). I would agree it partially measure the education though it also measures the ability of that school to attract the absolute best candidates (whether they would have been just as successful going elsewhere is a fair question).

Results from the 2014 rankings of top 500 universities with the number of schools by country:

location Top 100 % of World
% of World GDP % of top 500

52     4.5%   22.2%  29.2%
United Kingdom

  8  0.9  3.5 7.6

  4  1.1  5.0 7.8

  4  0.5  2.4 4.2

  4  0.9  3.8 4.2

  3  1.8  7.8 3.8

  4  0.3  1.5 3.8

  0  19.2  11.7 8.8

  4  0.2  1.3 2.6

  4  0.1  0.8 2.2

  5  0.1  0.8 1.4
South Korea

  0  .7  1.7 2.0

  0  17.0  1.9 0.2

The top countries for top 100 and top 500 schools are listed above, but I skip over many after the top 7 or 8 to include a few countries I like to watch, see the ranking site for the full list. Country population and GDP data were taken from the World Development Indicators 2013, by the World Bank.

There is little change in top 100 since 2008, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts quickly in this type of ranking. The USA lost 2 schools in the top 100, UK lost 3, Germany lost 2, Switzerland gained 2, Netherlands gain 2…

There is more change in the top 500 where changes are more sensible (there is probably not much separating schools ranked in the 300’s from those in the 500’s so variation and strong pushes (from countries like China) can have an impact. China gained 14 more schools in the top 500. China’s GDP also increased from 6.6% of global GDP to 11.7%.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 24th, it was 17th in 2008 My father taught there while I grew up.

Top 10 schools (same schools as 2008 with slight shifts of where a couple are ranked):

  • Harvard University
  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT)
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of Cambridge
  • Princeton University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Columbia University
  • University Chicago
  • University of Oxford

I find this whole ranking interesting (even with the limitations). They did an alternative ranking this year removing the Nobel and Fields factors and while it changes the results some, it doesn’t change a huge amount (less than I would have guessed). If it were me I would like to add more of those awards rather than eliminate them, but I understand the sense behind remove them. This is especially true if you want to help emerging institutions.

I don’t think China really think China has the 2nd most top 500 schools for research but that is what this list shows. I think China is making great progress but is really quite a bit behind the top countries. Their lack of top 100 schools partially reflects this. I do believe China could be in 2nd place in 10 or 15 years, but that have to continue the good things they are doing and do more beyond that.

The USA remains in very strong position. The strong university research success is one of the primary reasons the USA’s economy is so relatively strong. And the strong economy provides a great deal of funding to keep the USA’s research position strong. Never-the-less I do expect the USA’s relative advantage in this area to continue declining – mainly due to other countries (including China most significantly) investing heavily in science and engineering research. The anti-science attitudes of many powerful political people in the USA hurts; but all they have done is decrease the advantage the USA holds, they haven’t managed to ruin the USA’s strong position yet.

Since this effort is partially to spur and measure Chinese schools you can see why there would be pressure from the Chinese universities to help, which removing Nobel and Fields factors does do.

I repeat my prediction from back in 2008 (as would most, I would imagine) that China and India will have much greater representation 10-20 years from now (those gains will have to come at the expense of others and I would imagine Europe and the USA will show declines).

Related: 2008 rankings of the World’s Best Research Universities2007 rankings of the World’s Best Research Universities2014 Country H-index Rank for Science PublicationsTop 10 Manufacturing Countries 2006Asia: Rising Stars of Science and Engineering

My thoughts from 2008 on some things I wish they would adjust.

  • Some method of valuing company creation (by “alumni”, even people that do so before graduating, and faculty) – giving larger value the greater the economic gain provided by the company. Also other ways of valuing economic value creation.
  • Split credit for Nobel and Fields winners among where they are when they won, where they did the research and where they are now (I can imagine this would be a huge hassle still I think it would be interesting – and it seems we should be able to devote a few people to making developing some really interesting data I think many people would find interesting). Now all credit goes to where they are when they win. They also give credit to the schools the award winners received degrees from (which I like).
  • Add some additional awards to the calculations – there is a problem in that many awards are geographic or country specific still ideally add more.
  • Additional examining of the citation importance – I like what they are doing, I just would like to see more in that area.
  • Include more journals in the count of output of articles – again I can understand the difficulty, I just would like to see that added, ideally.

One Response to “2014 Ranking of the World’s Best Research Universities”

  1. Nancy Lee
    March 14th, 2016 @ 1:49 am

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