None of the favourites from the US which usually dominate world rankings made it to the top 20 of the 2017 Times Higher Education (THE) rankings of 150 of the most international universities in the world, released on Tuesday.
Denying that Donald Trump’s tough talk on immigration had impacted the rankings, Phil Baty, THE World University Rankings editor, said the survey data had been collected before the “current controversies in the US”. Though US universities led the traditional world university rankings as they were outstanding performers across teaching, research and knowledge transfer, the institutions were “relatively less dependent on international partnerships and collaborations as other nations, such as the UK and Australia.” Also, even though international students found US to be the most attractive destination, its universities had fewer international students as a proportion of total students compared to many countries, Baty said.
‘Most international universities’ are those that attract undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty from all over the planet. They also collaborate with leading scholars and departments. These academic “brands” are respected both locally and globally.
Swiss institutions took the top two positions in the ranking. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics university ETH Zurich led research institute École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Hong Kong University and National University of Singapore, at number three and four, respectively, indicated Asia’s emergence as a prominent international study destination.
Only one institute in the top 30, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at 22nd place, represented the US and it had 64 universities in the overall ranking. Germany and the UK were second and third respectively with 15 and 13 institutions in the ranking. Oxford, Cambridge and London School of Economics made it to the top 20.
In what could be considered a warning to the US and the UK, Baty said a university could not be world class without a global outlook, a global network and a global pool of talent. The new data released by THE recognized that the “best universities in the world live or die by their ability to attract talent from all across the world — students, academics, researchers, and managers,” he said.
Changing attitudes and policies towards immigration had the potential to change the flow of global talent and shift the world balance of power, particularly in the US and UK, currently the world’s most attractive destinations for international students. Both countries should realise that their institutions led the world, in part, as a result of their ability to draw in the brightest and the best. “Restrictions to the mobility of academic talent in these countries will inevitably harm their position, while other countries welcome talented immigrants, and their universities strengthen,” Baty added.
A THE release said the list was “published against a backdrop of warnings by the Association of American Universities that allowing other nations to replace the US as the ‘prime destination for the most talented students and researchers would cause irreparable damage’ and could help competitor nations surpass the US as the global leader in higher education.”