Most American universities plunge in this popular international ranking

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of America's ranked universities recorded lower year-over-year scores in academic reputation, the strongest-weighted metric in the QS rankings.

Higher education powerhouses abroad are slowly increasing their reputation as over two-thirds of American universities slipped, according to this year’s international university ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a global education strategy group.

Six American institutions ranked in the top 100 fell 10 places or more. The University of Chicago, for one, crashed out of the top 20 after falling 10 places, now ranking 21st. Of the countries with 30 or more ranked universities, none recorded a higher proportion of drops than the U.S., QS states.

On the other hand, 68% of China’s ranked universities improved their position. Likewise, all of India’s 10 highest-ranked universities have improved their position, which could spell trouble for American universities relying on the country’s high yield of international students for tuition dollars.

“As both domestic and regional institutions continue to improve, it is likely that India’s tertiary-age population will respond to excellence signals by exploring, and potentially pursuing, the alternatives,” said Jessica Turner, CEO of QS. “With both enrollment numbers and the financial position of many American institutions ringing alarm bells, the US cannot afford to sacrifice its allure among the global international student community.”

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Elite American universities are still performing well despite some turbulence. MIT ranks first for a historic 13th year in a row; Harvard holds fourth place after bumping up in last year’s ranking. Likewise, the California Institute of Technology jumped five places landing in 10th. Berkeley, however, fell out of the top 10 and Stanford fell out of the top five.

QS claims its report is the “most-consulted international university ranking,” garnering over three times more organic searches than its closest competitor on Google Trends and accruing more than 90 million views across its affiliated websites, according to a press release.

Why did American universities plummet?

“This year offers the starkest signal yet that there is no guarantee whatsoever that the US’s privileged position can withstand this ambition indefinitely,” said Ben Sowter, senior vice president at QS. “This year, its scores for internationalization and research impact have dropped across the board.”

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of America’s ranked universities recorded lower year-over-year scores in academic reputation, the strongest-weighted metric in QS’s rankings at 30%. Likewise, US universities are falling behind in the second-biggest metric: citations per faculty, which account for 20% of the weight. Specifically, 86% of American universities recorded lower year-over-year scores here.

The international ranking from QS analyzed 5,600 institutions worldwide and scoured 17 million research papers, 176 million citations and gathered insights from 175,798 academics and 105,476 employers. The final ranking this year featured 1,503 universities across 106 higher education systems.

More on its methodology here.

International university ranking: The top 20

The University of Chicago, Princeton and Yale fell out of this year’s top 20.

2025 Rank 2024 Rank Institution Country
1 1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) United States
2 6 Imperial College London United Kingdom
3 3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
4 4 Harvard University United States
5 2 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
6 5 Stanford University United States
7 7 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Switzerland
8 8 National University of Singapore (NUS) Singapore
9 9 UCL United Kingdom
10 15 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) United States
11 12 University of Pennsylvania United States
12 10 University of California, Berkeley (UCB) United States
13 14 The University of Melbourne Australia
14 =17 Peking University China (Mainland)
15 =26 Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) Singapore
16 13 Cornell University United States
17 =26 The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong SAR
18 =19 The University of Sydney Australia
19 =19 The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) Australia
20 25 Tsinghua University China (Mainland)
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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