The latest edition of the QS World University Rankings shows just how competitive global higher education has become, with increases in both the number of papers produced by universities in the ranking, and the number of citations received on those papers, according to QS.
There were more than 94,000 responses to the global survey of academics and nearly 45,000 responded to the separate survey of employers. Both were record figures.
Data from 1,210 institutions in 94 countries were analysed for the ranking, which took account of almost 13.5 million research papers and 97 million citations derived from them. The 1,000 ranked institutions serve 28 million students and employ two million staff.
Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, said that since 2005 there have been significant increases in the tertiary enrolment rate among those African Anglophone nations that feature in the QS World University Rankings. Growth in supply of tertiary education in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased at a remarkable pace but is still outstripped by growth in the demand for tertiary education in these countries.
“This is only the latest continuation of a longitudinal trend: between 1970 and 2013, the gross enrolment ratio in Sub-Saharan Africa increased at an annual average rate of 4.3%, which is significantly above the global annual average increase of 2.8%.”
“As such, it is unsurprising that faculty-student ratios at 11 of the 13 African universities that feature in our ranking are worsening. One of the major challenges faced by even the best universities in this region is meeting capacity demands, which will require a range of imaginative solutions, including online education, partnerships with institutions in other countries to facilitate transnational educational programmes, and, as far as is possible, increased investment.”
He said not all of these solutions will necessarily create or require ranking improvements, but they will play an invaluable role in ensuring that the tertiary education sector in Africa develops in a way that allows it to make the most of the potential that exists there.
Three out of eight South African universities in the ranking improved their places, while three lost ground. The University of Cape Town is South Africa’s highest ranked university, up two places at =198 (joint 198th). It is followed in the top 500 by the University of the Witwatersrand at =400 and Stellenbosch University at =427.
Universities in South Africa perform best on ‘Citations Per Faculty’ in terms of average rank.
In terms of ‘Employer Reputation’, the University of Cape Town scored the highest marks. The university with the strongest ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ is the University of Johannesburg. ‘International Student Ratio’ is highest at Rhodes University, while the University of the Witwatersrand has the largest ‘International Faculty Ratio’. Faculty are most productive, as measured by ‘Citations Per Faculty’, at Stellenbosch University.
Sowter said: “As far as regional dynamics go, the South African sector remains the hegemon, and while universities in Ghana and Kenya have become competitive at the subject level – especially in fields such as development studies – they do not yet enjoy strong enough reputational pull or the requisite research footprints required to feature more prominently in our overall exercise.”
The Arab Region, driven by Saudi Arabia, is home to two of the world’s top 200 universities for the first time.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University (KAU) has become the region’s top university. It rises from 231st to joint 186th, and overtakes King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). It is the first time in six years that KFUPM has not been Saudi Arabia’s top institution. However. KAU’s rise means that Saudi Arabia’s unbroken hold over the regional top spot continues.
The rest of the top five are the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar University.
The regional top performer for research impact is also Saudi Arabia, which possesses three of the top 10.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the most represented location in the table, with eight of the region’s 37 universities. The UAE’s top university is Khalifa University, which enters the top 300 for the first time. It now ranks 268th. Emirian universities continue to progress, with five of their eight improving, and only one dropping.
Lebanon and Saudi Arabia both have seven ranked universities.
Qatar University enters the top 300 for the first time. It now ranks 276th.
Sowter said: “It is clear that the universities from the Arab Region are breaking new ground in the search for excellence, with institutions in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman all reaching record highs. This is reflected in the increasing research output from the region.”
He said this is in part a testament to clear-minded strategising on the part of government bodies like the UAE’s Ministry of Education, which established a National Commission for Scientific Research; and its conscious attempts to attract gifted foreign researchers.
“All of the top seven scores for our ‘International Faculty Ratio’ indicator are achieved by Emirian universities,” Sowter said.
This year’s rankings illuminate sustained improvement throughout the Chinese system, QS reports, with 25 of China’s 42 ranked universities improving their position and only nine dropping in rank.
Sowter said: “Though the overall narrative for Chinese higher education is a highly positive one, its leaders should not lose sight of the importance of producing highly employable graduates. It is crucial that Chinese universities continue to foster innovative teaching practices and soft skill development.”
The top performer is Tsinghua University (16th), followed in the top 100 by Peking University (=22nd), Fudan University (40th), Zhejiang University (54th), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (=60th) and the University of Science and Technology of China (89th).
China’s top 10 universities produced 428,191 research papers in the five-year period used by QS to assess research impact; the United States’ top 10 universities produced 443,996. The gap in output between the two major powers is closing, but US research enjoys almost twice the level of impact.
“Therefore, the next frontier for Chinese higher education is taking steps to ensure that research impact matches research productivity.”
Six of Hong Kong’s seven universities have improved their position this year. Top place goes to the University of Hong Kong, unchanged at 25th and sixth best among Asian universities.
Hong Kong has five universities in the top 100, one up on last year, with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University rising 15 places to 91st.
Two of the world’s top 50 research universities, adjusted for faculty size, can be found in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology ranks 33rd for QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’ metric, while City University of Hong Kong ranks 34th. Both have improved their research impact year-on-year.
But six of Hong Kong’s seven universities receive a lower rank this year for ‘International Student Ratio’.
Sowter described Hong Kong as a “higher education system in an upwards trajectory”, but warned of small signs that work needs to be done on employability, with three universities dropping in the employability indicator.
India’s leading university, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, has risen 10 places to 152nd and is one of 23 ranked Indian institutions this year. But only four improved their position, and seven dropped in rank.
On average, Indian universities fell by 12 places, and they experienced particular problems in QS’s ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ and ‘International Student Ratio’.
But significant progress is being made in research performance, with the average academic’s rate of citation in India rising from 28.54 citations per faculty member in a five-year period to 37.18, an increase of 30%. This compares with the global average increase of 10%, and is swift progress towards, although still far short of, the global average of 50.31 citations per five years per faculty member.
Notably, the Indian Institute of Science (184th globally) achieves the world’s second-best score for research impact adjusted for faculty size. It achieves a perfect score of 100/100 for QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’ metric, and is the first Indian institution in history to see its research cited more than 100,000 times in a five-year period.
The average Indian Institute of Science (IISc) faculty member produces research that is cited 261 times in a five-year period: this is nearly five times greater than the global average, which is 50 citations per faculty member over a five-year period.
However, due to a weakening performance in QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator, IISc is now India’s third-best university. It has fallen behind the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, which drops in rank, and now places 182nd.
Japan’s attempts to internationalise its higher education sector are not yet yielding ranking success, QS reports. This year’s QS ranking sees 24 of Japan’s 41 ranked universities drop down the table. For the first time, no Japanese university ranks among the world’s top 100 for research performance.
QS says that although Japan’s ‘300,000 Foreign Students Plan’ is likely to be successful, the country’s rate of internationalisation lags behind the global average. Of the 23.29 million students at the 1,002 universities ranked by QS, 2.86 million are international (1 in 8, or 12.27%). At Japan’s 41 ranked universities, only 7.79% of students are foreign students (1 in 13).
The plan aims to ensure that, by 2020, 300,000 foreign students are studying at Japan’s institutions of higher education, and currently the figure stands at 299,000.
Yet 32 of Japan’s 41 universities receive a lower rank for ‘International Student Ratio’, and 34 of 41 receive a lower score for ‘International Faculty Ratio’ than the previous year.
Nevertheless, the University of Tokyo has risen for the fourth consecutive year. In 2015, it ranked 31st, nine places below its new rank. It also remains one of the world’s most respected academic institutions. It is one of only eight universities in the world, and the only university in Asia, to receive a perfect score of 100/100 for QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator.
Kyoto University has also improved its rank for the fourth consecutive year. Since 2015 it has risen from 36th to 33rd.
Employers are less positive about Japanese university graduates overall. Of the 41 ranked Japanese universities, 35 receive a lower rank for QS’s ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator.
However, Japanese universities are also failing to improve research performance and internationalisation relative to global competitors. Thirty-three of Japan’s 41 universities receive a lower score for ‘Citations per Faculty’.
Sowter said that while Japan’s universities have managed to attract more international students over the past decade, numerous competitor nations have moved to internationalise their sector more quickly.
The same principle also applies to research funding. The Japanese higher education sector is still experiencing the effect of over a decade of stagnant research funding. While peers in China, South Korea and Singapore have benefited from intensive stimulus programmes, Japanese universities have not enjoyed the same research and development funding.
“It is therefore unsurprising that Japan has lost its final top-100 research university: this trend correlates with the country’s relative share of articles published in the Web of Science falling from 8.4% to 5.2% between 2005 and 2015.”
Universiti Malaya has reached its highest-ever position, having risen for the sixth consecutive year, making it into the top 100 for the second time, at 70th globally.
Twenty Malaysian institutions are ranked this year, of which 10 have improved their positions, two are stable, and seven are new entrants, with only one dropping.
Malaysia’s progressive performance is due to improving results in two key indicators. Thirteen of Malaysia’s 20 universities have increased their score for QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’, while the remainder are new entrants for whom no year-on-year comparison exists.
Eleven of Malaysia’s 20 universities improve their performance on the ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator, and only 2 of 20 decline. Universiti Malaya also benefits from strong teaching capacity. It ranks 78th globally for QS’s ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ indicator.
Three of Asia’s 10 most international universities are Malaysian, according to QS’s ‘International Student Ratio’ indicator. They are Universiti Putra Malaysia (7th in Asia), UCSI University (8th in Asia), and Taylor’s University (10th in Asia).
Nanyang Technological University has risen to joint 11th, alongside the National University of Singapore, raising the prospects of a Singaporean university entering the world’s top 10.
Singapore Management University continues its rise throughout the top 500. It has leapt from 500th to 477th.
All three Singaporean universities are highly international. All three achieve perfect scores (100/100) for QS’s ‘International Faculty Ratio’ metric. But they all also suffer small score decreases for ‘International Student Ratio’.
Sowter said: “Efforts must be made to ensure that the state’s universities do not suffer the same teaching capacity pressures as their European and Australian peers, and that they continue to strive to attract outstanding talent from abroad.”
Korean universities must ensure that they focus on producing outstanding, employable graduates or face regressing, QS has warned, as 28 of South Korea’s 30 universities have received a worse score for QS’s measure of graduate employability this year.
On the positive side, two of the world’s top-most efficient research universities – adjusted for faculty size – are Korean, according to QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’ indicator. They are Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), whose research papers yield the highest number of citations per academic faculty member.
KAIST has lost its place among both the global top 40 and the Asian top 10. It ranks 41st globally, a drop of one position. It is therefore now Asia’s 11th-highest-ranked university, and is overtaken by Fudan University of China (now 40th).
Nevertheless, overall, among Korea’s 30 ranked universities, 10 improve their position, while 13 drop in rank.
In Asia, only Japan has more universities (8) in the top 150 than Korea’s seven.
South Korea has more of Asia’s most research-focused universities (3) than any other Asian location. India, Mainland China and Hong Kong have two each.
Among Asian universities, only IISc in India is more research-intensive than GIST and POSTECH. However, among Asian institutions, the highest volume of research and the highest number of citations are still produced by Chinese universities.
Sowter said only Israel can claim to spend a higher percentage of gross domestic product on fostering cutting-edge research than Korea.
But the employer reputation data suggest that employers worldwide are turning away from Korea’s graduates. “It is imperative that Korea’s universities seek to develop curricula that can nurture such soft skills if their graduates are to receive the successful careers that their endeavour undoubtedly deserves,” he said.
Some 24 of Australia’s 35 ranked institutions have improved their rank. QS says the data suggest that Australian universities are proving the beneficiaries of the global international student community’s uncertainty about the higher education systems in the United States and United Kingdom.
Australian improvements are being driven by consistent improvements in three indicators: ‘Academic Reputation’, ‘Citations per Faculty’ and ‘International Student Ratio’.
In the ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator, 25 of Australia’s 35 ranked institutions improved their performance, while eight declined. In the ‘Citations per Faculty’ indicator, which measures research impact adjusted for institution size, 28 of Australia’s 35 universities improve their performance and seven decline. In the ‘International Student Ratio’ metric, 26 of Australia’s 35 universities have improved, while nine declined.
Australia’s most reputable university according to the global academic community is the University of Melbourne (38th overall), which ranks 15th for ‘Academic Reputation’. The 44,000 employers surveyed by QS also rate the University of Melbourne as the most desirable Australian hiring destination: it ranks first nationally and 21st globally for ‘Employer Reputation’.
Nevertheless, the collective dataset illuminates Australian drops in the ‘Employer Reputation’ and ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ indicators, with 31 of Australia’s universities having a declining ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’, and 23 of 35 recording a worse year-on-year performance for ‘Employer Reputation’.
Sowter said the rate at which international student recruitment has occurred has been striking even in the context of the current global political climate, with recent Department of Home Affairs’ data indicating that well over 600,000 foreign students chose to forge their futures in Australia last year.
But the influx of international students has coincided with significant and near-uniform drops in performance on the ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ indicator.
“It is imperative that Australia endeavours to continue expanding its teaching capacity to meet demand that is likely to continue increasing.”
He said teaching provision needs to be at the heart of Australia’s higher education strategy if it is to retain its current high reputation internationally.
Catalysed by increasingly positive recognition from academics and employers across the world, New Zealand’s universities have begun to improve their positions in the world’s most-consulted university ranking, QS reports.
Six of New Zealand’s eight ranked universities improved their position this year, primarily due to positive results in two key indicators: ‘Academic Reputation’ and ‘Employer Reputation’.
New Zealand’s top university remains the University of Auckland, which ranks 88th – a drop of three places year-on-year. However, it remains the nation’s most reputable university, ranking top nationally for both ‘Academic Reputation’ and ‘Employer Reputation’.
All of New Zealand’s eight ranked universities have improved their performance in the ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator and six of them have improved their performance in the ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator.
But six of the eight have seen their teaching capacity decline, relative to global peers; and five have declined in QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’.
Sowter said the data suggest that New Zealand’s universities are “successfully upskilling their graduates in ways that prepare them for the uncertain, volatile, ambiguous future of work”.
He said the improving academic reputation will support the country’s attempts to attract more international talent.
Continental European universities have had a mixed year. Switzerland now has two universities in the top 20 and both Italian and Scandinavian institutions have generally done well. However, there is less to celebrate in France, Germany and the Netherlands, QS reports.
Of eight Belgian universities ranked, two improved their rank but four declined. KU Leuven has risen to 80th in the world, up one place, and Ghent University has risen eight places to 130th.. Four remain among the top 200, with improvements in research and academic reputation, but further progress is undermined by large class sizes and declining employer recognition for Belgian graduates.
Sowter said the level of investment in education is above the OECD average at 5.3% against 4.5% and there have been significant efforts to increase R&D spending in the past decade, which is reflected in excellent results in research and reputation indicators.
But to improve further Belgian universities must improve grade mobility, which has declined this year, he said. Very poor faculty-student ratios and a below average share of graduates taking STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – need to be addressed.
Three of Denmark’s five ranked universities improved, with the University of Copenhagen the top performer at 72nd, up five places, and Aalborg University the most improved, rising 19 places to =324. Universities in Denmark perform best on ‘International Student Ratio’ in terms of average rank.
For the first time in 16 years France does not have a university in the top 50, as Université PSL (Paris Sciences & Lettres) dropped from 50th to 53rd, one of 17 French universities to drop in rank, while only four improved.
The drops sustained by French universities are primarily – though not solely – attributable to their performance in QS’s reputational surveys. Twenty-five of France’s 31 ranked universities decline in QS’s ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator, while 26 of those 31 decline in QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator.
No French university places among the global top 100 for QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’ indicator, which measures institutional research impact. However, Ecole Polytechnique has significantly improved its research performance this year, and now ranks 109th for ‘Citations per Faculty’.
Despite dropping out of the top 50, Université PSL, France’s top university, enjoys excellent brand recognition among employers. Its score of 98.6 for QS’s ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator is 98.6/100 – the world’s 21st-best score. Students at PSL benefit from small class sizes, a metric used by QS as a precondition of positive teaching outcomes. It achieves a perfect score (100/100) for QS’s ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ indicator.
Number two in France is Ecole Polytechnique, up five to =60; and number three is Sorbonne University, which slipped two places to 77th.
According to QS, 20 French universities have seen their international faculty ratio drop and 21 have seen their international student ratio fall.
But Sowter said the ministry’s announcement that non-European Economic Area doctoral students will not be obliged to pay higher tuition fees is a welcome move to help improve France’s attractiveness to talented foreign PhD candidates.
“Additionally, the French government’s goal to triple the number of available scholarships is a positive strategic step.”
Germany secured three top 100 ranks this year, but out of 46 ranked institutions, only 12 improved and 29 declined in rank.
Germany’s flagship university, Technische Universität München or Technical University of Munich, rose six places. It now ranks 55th, its highest position since 2015.
Germany’s other top-100 entrants are Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, which ranks 63rd and performs most strongly for QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator, and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, which ranks 66th and is best-rated for small class sizes, achieving the world’s 51st-best score for QS’s ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ indicator.
All three rank among continental Europe’s 10 top universities.
In the ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator, 43 out of 46 ranked German universities dropped in rank, and only two improved.
The average change in German performance is a negative swing of 13.7 places; the average swing in German rank for the ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator is -56.6 places (negative 56.6).
Germany’s best-performing research university, adjusted for faculty size, is Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Its citations impact per faculty member is the world’s 20th-best. Five of the world’s top 100 universities according to this indicator are German: the others are Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (66th), Universität Mannheim (69th), Technische Universität Darmstadt (81st), and KIT or Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (83rd).
Sowter said: “With three of continental Europe’s 10 best universities, relatively low tuition fees for international students, and five of the 10 most highly-regarded universities in the region by academics, German higher education is still a highly attractive proposition.”
He added: “German graduates also enjoy a high level of post-study employment – at 91%, graduate employment in Germany remains above the EU average, and second only to Malta in Europe, according to Eurostat’s most recent figures. With high levels of focus on technical and vocational education and strong reputation, German institutions might expect their graduates to be highly-coveted.”
Five of the Netherlands’s 13 universities improved their rank this year, but seven declined. The country has one top 50 and two top 100 universities – Delft University of Technology is 50th, up two places, and the University of Amsterdam is 64th, down seven places. Overall Dutch universities perform best on ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’.
More than half of Spain’s ranked universities – 14 out of 27 – lost places in this year’s ranking.
Only four of Spain’s 27 ranked universities improved their rank. Three of those four are based in Barcelona: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona rises from 193rd to 188th, while Universitat Pompeu Fabra rises to 285th from 298th position. The leading institution, Universitat de Barcelona, rose to 165th globally.
Twenty-one of Spain’s 27 ranked universities receive a lower score for QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator. There is also evidence that Spanish universities are failing to attract foreign academics at the same rate as peer institutions across the world. Twenty-one of Spain’s 27 ranked universities receive a lower score for QS’s ‘International Faculty Ratio’ indicator.
Sixteen of Spain’s 27 ranked universities receive a lower score for QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’ indicator, indicating declining research performance.
Sowter said: “The decline in citations performance is unsurprising when placed in context. Investment in research takes time to pay off – it is a lagging indicator – and Spanish universities saw six consecutive years of declining research and development funding between 2008 and 2014.”
The United Kingdom is showing signs of suffering from increasing class sizes and declining employer confidence, with two-thirds of its institutions declining, according to the QS data.
Of the 84 UK universities ranked, 50 drop in published rank. Only 12 improve their performance.
The University of Cambridge has now dropped one place per year for the past five years: it ranked 2nd in 2015’s edition of the rankings but is seventh this year.
The UK’s two major issues are class sizes and employer recognition. The 84 featured British institutions have seen their position in QS’s ‘Employer Reputation’ indicator drop by an average of 41.1 ranks. This metric, measuring the insights of over 44,000 hiring managers worldwide, reflects the attractiveness of UK universities to employers.
The average swing experienced by UK universities in QS’s ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ metric, which measures class sizes and teaching capacity, is a drop of 33.6 ranks.
There were smaller but conspicuous drops in the ‘International Student Ratio’ indicator, reflecting the concerns of the international student community about the UK as a study destination both during and post Brexit.
Though the UK still has 34 of the world’s 100 most international universities, 22 of those 34 have lost rank. The average drop experienced by UK universities in this metric is 11.5 ranks.
According to QS, Cambridge’s decline should be examined in the context of the steps it has taken to increase its teaching provision, which has had an impact on its citations impact adjusted for university size. It continues to have a perfect 100/100 score on reputational indicators.
Cambridge “is in the unusual position of having improved its teaching capacity: only 18 of the UK’s 84 universities have done so this year”, Sowter said, describing it as a “sensible strategic decision designed to ensure that Cambridge’s reputation for outstanding teaching and highly employable graduates continues into the future”.
Overall, he said, the UK performance should not be seen as anomalous. “All of the UK’s three worst years – in 15 years of rankings – have come since 2016. Conversely, all of the last three datasets for EU universities have constituted improvements on their results in the two pre-referendum editions.”
He said: “Numerous British universities are bracing themselves for faculty cuts due to financial uncertainty. The status of the UK’s participation in international research and student exchange frameworks such as Horizon 2020’s successor and Erasmus+ remain uncertain.
“Though it is true that EU student applications increased this year, it is by no means certain that those numbers will stay high once such applicants no longer have access to subsidised EU fees.”
He said if UK higher education is to continue to produce outstanding research and foster world-class teaching, “it is essential that those with the power to do so redouble their efforts to improve teaching capacity so as to reduce the burden on passionate but beleaguered academics, reach a clear conclusion about the fee status of EU students post-Brexit, and do their utmost to ensure that the UK remains a part of EU research collaboration frameworks into the future.”
Lomonosov Moscow State University has risen six places to its highest-ever position, 84th, which is helped by the fact that students at Lomonosov Moscow State University benefit from one of the lowest faculty-student ratios in the world, 99.7/100. In fact, seven of the world’s top 50 universities for ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ are Russian.
The overall results for Russian higher education illuminate the introduction of system-wide improvements. Twenty-five Russian universities feature in the 2020 edition of the rankings: 15 (60%) improve their position, while only five (20%) drop. Furthermore, there is evidence that the Russian government’s attempts to internationalise its higher education system are proving successful, QS reports.
This year, 16.76% of students at Russia’s ranked universities are international. Last year, 15.02% of Russia’s students were international.
Russian graduates are struggling to receive domestic and international employer recognition. Only five of Russia’s 25 universities achieve a higher year-on-year rank for ‘Employer Reputation’; 20 receive a lower rank.
Research impact remains a weakness for the Russian higher education system. Eighteen of 25 universities receive a lower score for ‘Citations per Faculty’, and no Russian university achieves a top-600 score for this indicator.
Sowter said: “Russia has made – and is continuing to make – highly ambitious attempts to internationalise its universities, and the continued creation of a vibrant multinational community is an important factor underlining Russian improvements this year.”
In 2016, the United States was home to 38 of the world’s top 100 research universities; it now has 28. In 2016, it had 67 of the world’s top 200 research universities; it now has 48.
In only two of the past seven years has the US experienced a higher proportion of its universities rising than falling. This year, the proportion of US universities improving their rank is at its lowest point ever (22.9%).
Conversely, in 2016, China had 12 of the world’s top 200 research universities; it now has 19. Furthermore, China’s top two universities – Tsinghua University and Peking University – have reached record highs (16th and 22nd).
The vast majority, some 126, of the United States’ 157 universities, have recorded declines in performance for QS’s ‘International Student Ratio’ indicator, reflecting increasing international student ambivalence about the US system.
In four out of five key indicators US universities declined overall. On academic reputation the ratio of universities rising to declining was 26:116, on faculty-student ratio (class sizes) the ratio rising to declining was 44:105, on citations per faculty (research performance) 44:105 and on international faculty ratio 34:120.
The one indicator showing across the board improvement was employer reputation, with 101 improvements, 52 declines.
“Our dataset – which contains the insights of more than 44,000 hiring managers regarding the quality of graduates they receive from specific institutions – indicates that employers worldwide still find US graduates more attractive than those from China,” Sowter said.
“Thirteen of the world’s top 50 institutions for graduate employability are American, with the successful US economy also making employers more likely to look towards American graduates.”
Due to crowded classes and decreasing recognition among the global academic community, half of Canada’s universities have fallen in the latest edition of the world’s most-consulted global university rankings.
Thirteen of Canada’s 26 entrants drop in rank year-on-year, primarily due to slipping behind on QS’s ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’ indicator, in relation to which 22 of the cohort of 26 have fallen.
In addition, 18 Canadian universities decline in performance and only seven improve in QS’s ‘Academic Reputation’ indicator, which measures the opinions of over 94,000 academic faculty across the world regarding the performance of the globe’s universities.
All of Canada’s top four universities have experienced minor drops. McGill University drops from 33rd to joint 35th, due to a 42-rank drop for ‘Faculty-Student Ratio’. However, it is still ranked among the world’s top 50 universities according to academics and employers, and faculty-student ratio is the only indicator for which it has dropped.
The University of British Columbia has fallen out of the top 50, dropping from 47th to 51st. Its drop is primarily due to a drop in its ‘Citations per Faculty’ performance, which measures research impact.
Sowter said: “With three of the world’s top 40 universities according to the global academic community, and five of the world’s top 100 according to employers, there is still much that is positive about Canadian higher education.
“This is all the more so in the context of a year in which universities in the United States have fallen by an average of 16 places and 81% of US institutions have suffered drops in their ‘International Student Ratio’ performance.”
He said the evidence still suggests that Canada is likely to be an attractive alternative to international students disheartened by the discursive and political environments in both the US and the UK.
“However, this year’s QS World University Ranking results indicate that Canadian universities must ensure that any increase in student numbers is matched by an equal increase in teaching capacity, so that teaching quality does not suffer.”
Argentina’s Universidad de Buenos Aires is Latin America’s best university for the fifth consecutive year, at 74th, one place down from last year. Overall, Latin American performance shows signs of increasing competitiveness, with nearly twice as many improvements as drops, QS reports.
The 88 Latin American universities ranked means that Latin America is less represented than in last year’s edition, when 93 of its universities were ranked.
The most-represented nation is Brazil, with 19 ranked universities. Though Brazil is also home to eight of Latin America’s 10 best research universities – according to QS’s ‘Citations per Faculty’ indicator – its performance is showing signs of declining. This is due to high faculty-student ratios, decreasing international popularity and decreasing graduate employability, QS reports.
Argentina and Mexico are both home to 13 ranked universities. Argentina’s performance is stable, though it is also seeing deteriorating performance in QS’s employability and research metrics.
Mexico is home to Latin America’s second-best university: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México rises to 103rd, and its trajectory sees it entering the global top 100 in next year’s edition. Twelve of Mexico’s universities receive a decline in score for ‘International Student Ratio’, indicating lower appeal among the international student community.
Chile’s top two universities – of 11 ranked – reach record highs. Chile’s results for QS’s employability indicator is the second-best of any Latin American nation, with 8 of 11 improving performance.
Colombia’s top two universities – Universidad de Los Andes and Universidad Nacional de Colombia – reach their highest-ever position. Their improvements are driven by increases in the scores they receive for QS’s ‘Employer Reputation’ metric, with nine of Colombia’s 12 ranked institutions recording more positive feedback from employers.
All data and analysis for this article was provided by QS.