MIT keeps grip on No. 1 in World Rankings, but will U.S. maintain top spots in future?

American institutions fare well again in list compiled by QS, but new methodologies could impact next year's positions.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is No. 1. Again. Stanford (No. 3), Harvard (No. 5), Caltech (No. 6) and the University of Chicago all have cracked the Top 10. Again.

The 2023 World University Rankings from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) don’t look much different from last year’s installment, save for a swapping of positions by British standouts Cambridge (No. 2) and Oxford (No 4). But QS researchers say that static list of 1,400, where MIT has had a stranglehold on the top spot for 11 consecutive years, may undergo a sea change in the future as methodologies are adjusted.

QS said it has given institutions “a year’s notice” before it adds new lenses that may shake up the standings for 2024, including how research institutions are collaborating, what career opportunities are being provided to graduates and how well universities are supporting students.

“As we face the mounting climate crisis, the impacts of political polarization, and the automation of the workforce, it is paramount that institutions prepare their students for the realities of the competitive global workplace by embedding problem solving throughout the curriculum and university experience,” QS Rankings Manager Andrew MacFarlane said in the report. “To treat it as a stand-alone skill will be to everyone’s detriment.”

MacFarlane said it may be worth watching institutions from China and especially India, which all have improved from last year thanks to goals set by its government. China’s Peking University, meanwhile, jumped up six spots to No. 12 this year, while Tsinghua University moved up from No. 17 to No. 14.

For at least one year, however, universities in the U.S. and the UK can rest on their laurels. The impressive performance by institutions on this side of the pond includes four more within the top 20. The University of Pennsylvania maintained its position at No. 13, while Princeton leapfrogged Yale (18th) into a tie for 16th. Cornell moved up a spot from last year to reach No. 20. Columbia fell out into No. 22 overall, but there were few other changes, as two universities from Switzerland (ETH Zurich and EPFL), two from Singapore (National University and Nanyang Tech), and one from Scotland (University of Edinburgh) joined Imperial College London on the list again.

“Stability in this Top 10 is, I suspect, a sign that our rankings are reflecting something tangible,” MacFarlane said. “To be the world’s very best universities, a great many things have to fall into place: outstanding research, enviable reputations, a well-stocked repository of faculty staff and an international community of staff and students. These elements tend to be built slowly over time, which also means that it takes time for them to erode.”

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MIT was the only institution on the charts to earn a perfect 100 in six of the eight categories—academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty and employment outcomes—and the lone institution to get a perfect score overall. Stanford achieved perfect marks on academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio and employment outcomes.

Seven other U.S. institutions placed inside the top 50, including one of the biggest movers, the University of California at Berkeley, which rose five positions to No. 27. Johns Hopkins University (No. 24) overtook the University of Michigan at Ann-Arbor (No. 25), while Northwestern (No. 32) and NYU (No. 39) both inched up. UCLA fell four spots to 44, and Duke tied at No. 50, while the University of California at San Diego fell five spots to No. 53, one behind Carnegie-Mellon.

There were other impressive jumps within the top 100, including the University of Texas at Austin (No. 73) and the University of Washington (No. 80), each rising five positions. Brown (No. 63) and Penn State (No. 93) each leaped up by three. But there were an equal number of those dropping spots, including eight by the University of Wisconsin at Madison (No. 83), six by Rice (No. 100), three by University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (No. 85) and two by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which fell two spots and out of the top 100. Georgia Tech remained in the same position as 2022 at No. 88.

Here are the rest of the United States universities in the Top 500:

102 (tie): University of California, Davis

102 (tie): University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

108: Boston University

118 (tie): Washington University in Saint Louis

129: Purdue University

140: The Ohio State University

147 (tie): University of Rochester

147 (tie): University of California, Santa Barbara

155 (tie): Emory University

159: Michigan State University

164 (tie): Texas A&M University

164 (tie): University of Maryland at College Park

176: Case Western Reserve University

181 (tie): University of Pittsburgh

185 (tie): University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

188: University of Florida

199: Vanderbilt University

205: Dartmouth College

219: Arizona State University

235: University of California, Irvine

243: University of Notre Dame

246: Yeshiva University

253 (tie): University of Massachusetts at Amherst

253 (tie): University of Virginia

262: University of Arizona

267 (tie): Rutgers University

281: Georgetown University

296: University of Miami

312 (tie): North Carolina State University

312 (tie): Tufts University

317 (tie): University of Colorado at Boulder

317 (tie): University of Illinois at Chicago

339: Indiana University at Bloomington

350: University of Connecticut

362: George Washington University

363 (tie): Virginia Tech

369 (tie): University of Kansas

375 (tie): University of California, Santa Cruz

380 (tie): University of Hawaii at Manoa

388: (tie): Northeastern University

392 (tie): University of Utah

408 (tie): Colorado State University

416 (tie): State University of New York at Stony Brook

425 (tie): State University of New York at Buffalo

438 (tie): Wake Forest University

443 (tie): Illinois Institute of Technology

443 (tie): Washington State University

453: University of California, Riverside

461 (tie): Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

467 (tie): University of Alaska at Fairbanks

467 (tie): University of Iowa

481 (tie): Iowa State University

497 (tie): Brandeis University

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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