Feature

The world university rankings: 5 takeaways

Harvard slipped to number two, California has the best schools, and public universities are on the decline, according to the Times Higher Education magazine's annual rankings

The Times Higher Education magazine has published its annual rankings of the world's top 200 universities, revealing some big surprises. The widely respected rankings are calculated based on ratings in five areas: Teaching, research, citations, industry income, and international outlook. How did U.S. colleges fare? Here, five takeaways from this year's list:

1. Harvard lost its top slotFor the first time in the list's eight-year history, Harvard didn't rank number one. The peak position went instead to the California Institute of Technology. Harvard tied (gasp!) for second with Stanford. Times Higher Education attributes Caltech's rise to "consistent results across the indicators, and a steep (16 percent) rise in research funding." In other words, money, honey. Still the list's editor, Phil Baty, says the difference between Harvard and Caltech was "miniscule."
2. The highest percentage of top schools are AmericanThe United States "dominated the list, with 75 American schools in the top 200," says Namitha Jagadeesh at Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Seven of the top ten slots went to American schools; the remaining three were British. Within the U.S., the state of California was especially golden, with three schools — Caltech, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley — in the top 10. (Caveat: The state's public schools are slipping. See below.)

3. The United Kingdom comes in secondThe U.K. has 32 universities on the list, the most of any country save the U.S. Its highest ranking school was Oxford, at fourth place. The country's Universities Minister, David Willetts, says the ranking demonstrated that considering its size, the U.K.'s higher education system is the "world's best-performing."

4. But U.S. public schools are sufferingA number of public universities, including the University of California at Berkeley, U.C. Los Angeles, U.C. San Diego, and U.C. Santa Barbara fared worse in the ranking than they did last year. "The great public American universities do seem to be suffering, whereas the private universities in America have managed to maintain or protect their funding levels a bit more," says Baty.

5. English-speaking universities prevailSwitzerland's ETH Zurich was the only non-English speaking university to crack the top 20. In the top 50, there were only four European universities outside of the U.K. The highest ranking university in Asia was the University at Tokyo at 30th place. Japan had four other school on the list, Hong Kong four, and China three.

Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Guardian, University World News

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