How the world’s top universities are distributed

Oxford has won the accolade of world’s best university, according to the latest Times Higher Education Rankings. It is the first time an institution from outside the United States has topped the list. The ranking looks at 980 universities, which represent only the top 5% of the world’s higher education institutions. Seventy-nine countries feature in this elite list; however, the distribution of universities is far from even.

The domination in the rankings of Northern American universities is clear. During the previous 12 years no other nation has made it to first place, and the top 10 has consistently featured a majority of US institutions. In 2016, 148 US universities made the rankings, and 63 made it into the top 200.



The United Kingdom, with 91 institutions on the list, is home to the largest number of top universities in Europe. It is the only country other than the US to feature more than one institution in this year’s top 10. The one other country to make it into the top 10 is Switzerland, whose university ETH Zurich appeared in ninth place. (Nine other Swiss universities make the overall ranking.) Germany, Italy, France and Spain all have more than 26 universities in the rankings. But as the Times Higher Education notes, many European nations are “losing ground as Asia continues its ascent”.



Although Western universities continue to dominate the highest spots, Asian institutions have been gaining ground. Overall, 289 Asian universities, from 24 countries, made it into the rankings – 19 of which reached the top 200, up from 15 the previous year. The region’s best performing university has reached a new high this year. The National University of Singapore made it to 24th place, an increase of two positions.  Japan is Asia’s most represented nation, with 69 universities in the rankings. The University of Tokyo, Japan’s highest-ranking institution, just made it into the top 40, in 39th place. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is home to five top 200 universities.

China has more than 50 institutions in the rankings, and its leading establishment, Peking University, moved into 29th place, from 42nd last year. However, only four of China’s 52 universities in the rankings made it into the top 200, while Japan only has two institutions. After the US and UK, Germany and the Netherlands are the countries with the most elite universities.


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