There are several components factored into the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings each year, including an institution’s commitments to research, diversity, and of course, having world-class faculty.
But in the 2020-21 version in which American universities again dominated, editors highlighted a pattern of votes from its panel of global scholars that rewarded those that rose to the challenges of COVID-19.
They lauded Johns Hopkins University, in particular, for its research prowess and numerous studies released during the pandemic on efficacy of vaccines and viral transmission. There were others receiving high praise that were at the forefront of COVID-19 developments, including Imperial College in the UK (modeling data), Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin in Germany (virology) and Tsinghua University (research), which became the first from China to get as high as No. 10 overall.
“From the early work to identify the virus and treatment options to the development of life-saving vaccines, experts in public health, infectious disease and clinical care have been working non-stop for the benefit of society,” University of Sydney Vice Chancellor Mark Scott wrote in an article within the report. “How well we continue to share these stories with government, industry and an increasingly skeptical public will be fundamental to our shared future success.”
Though most of the votes in the study came from clinical and health leaders (16%), THE recalculated responses to give more equal distribution to other sectors such as business and economics, engineering, life sciences and arts and humanities. Still, one esteemed institution – the University of Oxford – managed to move up to No. 3, helped by creating its own vaccine in a partnership with AstraZeneca
But it couldn’t get past two U.S. stalwarts, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Stanford University dropped a spot to No. 4, followed by the UK’s Cambridge University. Four other American institutions remained in the same spots from 2020 – the University of California, Berkeley (No. 6), Princeton University (No. 7), Yale University (No.8) and UCLA (No.9).
Other significant movers included the University of Chicago up to No. 11 and Columbia University up to No. 12, two spots ahead of last year’s report. The California Institute of Technology fell from No. 11 to 14 and the University of Michigan dropped a spot to No. 16. The only other American institution in the Top 20, the University of Pennsylvania, fell behind Johns Hopkins into the No. 20 position.
Much of the buzz in this year’s rankings, based on more than 10,000 votes from scholars across 128 countries, was the increased competition from China in humanities and social sciences. Best known for their prowess in science, several Chinese universities earned high marks in voting in those categories. The most notable split in those votes came from rising universities Fudan and Beijing Normal, where 18% of votes came from scholars in those fields.
Among the other U.S. institutions that landed the top 50 were: Cornell University (No. 22), NYU (No. 25), Duke University and the University of Washington (No. 28), the University of Texas-Austin (No. 31), Carnegie Mellon University and Northwestern University (No. 32), UC-San Diego (No. 34), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (No. 37), the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (No. 44) and UC-Davis (No. 47).