Last week the most recent set of World University Rankings was published. So, the top 10 includes Caltech, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Cambridge, Imperial College of London, UC Berkeley, and Chicago. In essence the same list than last year with just Oxford and Stanford changing their places. The first non-US/non-UK institution was ETZ Zürich on 12th place.
The best Asian university was University of Tokyo on 27th, and THE editor Phil Baty featured in his analysis Alan Ruby who argued that there is a general rise of Asian universities in the list, likely to be linked to the austerity measures in Western universities and the focus on excellence in a number of Asian countries which now is paying off. However, another analysis indicates that the good or better positioning in rankings is not indicative of increasing quality across Asia – for instance in the case of India there is a clear differentiation in terms of institutions and the few highly selective institutions provide few spillovers to the whole system.
The best Nordic university is Karolinska on 42nd place. In Norway, nation wide media wrote about the University of Oslo rising some 17 places – where the rector is commenting how this rise is due to a long term efforts to raise research quality. Odd words after last years “dramatic fall” – which was just as many places down. This indicates that in a two year perspective the position is about the same. But in those two years this has created two kinds of news – the dedication to research and results on the one hand, and the dramatic fall on the other hand. And one can of course question how many changes there really have been over two years. But one could argue that University of Oslos concerns about falling under the 200 list can be seen as quite grounded in some kind of public perception, considering how the group under 200 in the THE analysis is called “the best of the rest” or as “they might be giants…or were“.