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Bad news for Europe in the upcoming World University Rankings

Universities all over the world are anxiously awaiting their designation, as the prestigious Times Higher Education Rankings are about to be released

A month ago, the Shanghai ranking saw the University of Copenhagen move up two spots from the previous year, and on 2 October we will know how well the university has done on this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings

See the University Post article on the Shanghai ranking report, here.

Last year, the University of Copenhagen came in 130th, together with Université de Lausanne in Switzerland and University of Southampton in the UK, which all shared the overall score of 53,6. University of Copenhagen gained the most points for its international outlook and citations, but was still upstaged by Aarhus University, the second biggest university in Denmark, who came in 116th and gained the most points for industry income.

When asked about the general trends of this year’s ranking, the editor of the Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings Phil Baty pointed out that the results will ”not be very good news to Europe as a whole”. He mentioned that one reason for this is European universities’ austerity, which is starting to hinder their performance.

Asian ascendance

Scandinavian universities, on the other hand, may be left unscathed, as Scandinavian countries are not as badly affected as the rest of Europe. They have managed to sustain their quality by protecting universities from funding cuts.

Baty also revealed that the biggest surprise of this year’s ranking is the rise of Asia, and says that it will be interesting to see whether they are able to sustain this improvement. American universities can expect good news as well, as ”America has gotten over its financial troubles,” says Baty. The suspense remains on whether the California Institute of Technology will be able to secure the first place for the third time in a row, and Oxford and Cambridge will be battling it out for the top ranking title in the UK.

Overall, this year will offer an interesting mix of stories. For example, there was a major shift in policy in India, which is now trying very hard to succeed in THE World University Rankings. As Baty mentioned, they have invented a new quality system and ”are now willing to share proper information about the universities and store proper data abou them”. Baty also states that Indian universities still have much to improve on, but are likely to be more visible in this year’s rankings.

Globalisation of knowledge

Russia is also actively working on academic improvement, as they are trying to get five universities in the world top 100 by 2020. Baty visited Moscow in early spring this year and discovered that they had selected 15 universities that will receive extra funding and close inspection. Russia has made a serious political commitment to this initiative, as they are trying to become more liberal in issuing visas in order to attract students from abroad. ”Although it is very encouraging, it is still way too early to expect anything,” adds Baty.

Talking about the overall quality of higher education in the world, Baty once again mentioned the falling of the West and the rise of the East, but pointed out that the fierce competition is lifting standards across the board. For example, the fact that the University of Harvard is falling on the list doesn’t mean that they have gotten worse; it just means that everyone else has gotten better. There is a huge brain drain going on, but Baty believes that sharing knowledge doesn’t lower it, but instead globalises it.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings employs 13 separate performance indicators and examines universities by their four core missions – research, teaching, knowledge transfer and international activity. ”The Times Higher Education World University Rankings provide an opportunity for reflection on the status of our respective institutions, but also provide a glimpse into the evolution of the world’s innovation ecosystem,” points out Jean-Lou Chameau, president emeritus of the California Institute of Technology, and president of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

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