For the first time, 25% of the world’s 200 best institutions are led by women

Similarly, Women's Power Gap recently analyzed female leaders in the U.S. and found that they made up 39% of provosts and 30% of presidents. 

Female college students have outpaced their male counterparts for up to four decades, while the proportion of women at the helm of U.S. institutions still lags far behind. While there has been little movement to address this gap, a new report from Times Higher Education (THE) suggests that colleges and universities are moving steadily—if slowly—in the right direction.

Among the top 200 global universities identified by THE in 2024, 50 are now run by women, marking a steady incline over the past five years: 43 in 2022, 41 in 2021, 39 in 2020 and 34 in 2019 and 2018. This year’s gains mark a new milestone now that women run a quarter of the world’s highest-ranked institutions.

These results may come as a surprise to some, considering that two recent female presidents, at Harvard and UPenn, resigned following their disastrous showing before Congress regarding student safety and antisemitism. Their exit from the world of elite academia means that the U.S. has only 15 women in the top position, a one-point decline from the year prior. However, the number of women U.S. leaders is still higher than in the rest of the world, and the proportion of female leaders leading the top universities is higher than the global average at 27%.

Comparatively, the U.K. has nine women leading, while Germany and the Netherlands have six. The countries’ proportions of female leaders in their institutions in the top 200 are better than the U.S., however. The U.K. (36%), Germany (29%) and Netherlands (55%) all increased their appointments of female leaders.

THE analyzed the presidents running the university by the first of February and included 201 institutions. Three were tied for 199th place.

*Note: THE issued a correction on their report at approximately 9:23 a.m. ET on March 6, finding that women lead 50 of the world’s top universities—not 51.

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The top 10 universities led by women in 2024

World Rank 2024 Institution Country Leader’s name


University of Oxford

United Kingdom

Irene Tracey


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

United States

Sally Kornbluth


University of Cambridge

United Kingdom

Deborah Prentice


University of California, Berkeley

United States

Carol Christ


Columbia University

United States

Minouche Shafik


Cornell University

United States

Martha Pollack


University of Washington

United States

Ana Mari Cauce


New York University

United States

Linda Mills


Universität Heidelberg


Frauke Melchior


Karolinska Institute


Annika Östman Wernerson


Similar leaps elsewhere

Women’s Power Gap (WPG) recently analyzed female leaders in the U.S. and found that they made up 39% of provosts and 30% of presidents.

“It is heartening to see more women leading our nation’s elite universities,” Andrea Silbert, president of WPG, said to Forbes. “This speaks to an increased awareness of the importance of having academic leadership that represents the diversity of the student population it serves. Women have outnumbered men on college campuses for decades, so it’s high time we’re starting to see more gender and racial diversity reflected in the highest roles in academia.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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