The Times Higher Education today published the 14th annual edition of its World University Rankings, a list of the top 1,000 universities from 77 countries. America’s grip on the world’s top universities has loosened further as the UK becomes home to the top two institutions for the first time in the 13-year history of the table.

Last year, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) ended its five-year reign of the rankings after being overtaken by the University of Oxford. This year, Oxford holds onto the top spot while Caltech falls one place further to joint third with Stanford University as the University of Cambridge climbs from fourth to second.

Last year, Berkeley announced that it faced a $150 million deficit, largely the result of a steady drop in state funding and a five-year undergraduate tuition fee freeze in the state of California. Berkeley’s decline means that the University of California, Los Angeles is now the US’ top public university for the first time at 15th place, down from 14th.

Meanwhile, the University of California, San Diego is now not far behind Berkeley after leaping 10 spots to 31st, thanks to an increase in its scores for the three research metrics (reputation, income and output) and a rise in the amount of industry income it received per staff.

However, the University of Pennsylvania made the top ten for the first time, and more US universities are included than ever in the top 1,000.

Two-fifths of the US institutions in the top 200 (29 out of 62) have dropped places and around the same number have faced falls in their research income since last year. Future levels of federal research income under the Trump administration are in doubt.

In contrast, five of China’s seven top-200 representatives saw a boost in their research income meaning that some leading US universities have now been overtaken by Asian institutions. The National University of Singapore has overtaken Carnegie Mellon University, Tsinghua University now ranks above the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology performs better than the University of California, Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, Peking University is now on a par with New York University.

In addition, there are signs that US universities are already starting to feel the effects of anti-immigration policies in the country, with international students less likely to apply to US universities and less likely to accept offers from them post-application.

“The US has seen its dominance of global rankings wane further this year as it loses out to institutions in the UK and Asia,” said Phil Baty, editorial director of Global Rankings for THE, in a statement. “For the first time this year US universities do not hold either of the top two spots of the ranking–a real blow to the country’s higher education sector. Meanwhile, funding concerns for America’s public universities, uncertainty around future levels of research income, anti-immigration policies and the continued rise of Asia means that the US’ position may decline further in future years.”

The calculation of the THE World University Rankings 2018 has been subject to an independent audit by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), making these the only global university rankings to be subjected to full, independent scrutiny of this nature.

Performance indicators are grouped into five areas:

  • Teaching (the learning environment)
  • Research (volume, income and reputation)
  • Citations (research influence);
  • International outlook (staff, students and research)
  • Industry income (knowledge transfer).

(Next page: The full US rankings by THE)

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury

Meris Stansbury is the Editorial Director for both eSchool News and eCampus News, and was formerly the Managing Editor of eCampus News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.


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