Like last year, I tried to look at the Times Higher education university league tables from a national perspective. I gave a score of 200 for the number one university (Harvard) and 1 for the number 200 (the university of Athens) etc., and than aggregated these scores for every country.

The graph below shows that the United States and the United Kingdom are again superior in the Times rankings, followed by Australia and Canada. The Netherlands is the first non English speaking country, followed by Japan and Germany. The main difference however compared to last years results is that the number of countries represented in the top 200 has increased. The group is now joined by countries like Greece, Argentina, Thailand, Russia and India.


But of course…size matters and it’s easier to have many well performing universities in a large country than in a small country. So here is the result if we take population into account.


This of course works well for the small states like Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Netherlands again comes fifth in line. If we control for GDP instead of population we get a similar picture. Here however, Hong Kong clearly outperforms the rest.


For what it’s worth….

This article has 14 comments

  1. Wietse de Vries

    Beste Eric,
    Your analysis of the THES ranking is very interesting, but I think you should consider two factors:
    1. The number of students attended by the universities listed in the top 200 compared to national enrollments in HE or the national population. I f you do that, Switzerland comes in first (the 7 swiss institutions attend 42.7% of national enrollments) and the Netherlands rank third (attending 33% of national enrollments). In turn, the 57 US universities attend only 8% of enrollments. Overall, the European Union ranks 77 universities (not counting Russia)compared to 57 US universities, and they attend to a similar number of students (1.5 million).
    2. It does not seem right to qualify Harvard with 200 points, and the last university (of all places, Twente) with just 1. After all Twente’s score is 54, compared to Harvard’s 100.

    Considering the above, European universities come out better than their US counterparts. Their general score may be a bit lower, but they attend a higher proportion of enrollments and of the general population, and at a lower cost for students. And, as it should be, the Dutch come out on top.
    Groeten vanuit Mexico

  2. Eric

    @ Wietse
    Thanks for that! Interesting twist. Shows again that simple league tables don’t provide the full picture…

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