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September 2, 2020

Oxford tops Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021; Record Number of US Colleges in Top 10, but China and COVID-19 Threaten US Status as Higher Education Superpower, Says Times Higher Education Survey of Global University Leaders.

Oxford park

Photo: A Park at Oxford University. Oxford tops Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. Image credit: Michael Day.

LONDON, Sept. 2, 2020 — America’s higher education system has long been the world’s envy, competing only with the UK and Europe’s top universities when it comes to global reach and attracting the best student teaching and research talent. But the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2021, released today, and a recent THE survey of 200 global higher education leaders, suggest that outside of its elite institutions, US higher education is facing the stark reality of decline. It must overcome enormous challenges if it wants to retain its position on the world stage.

US higher education commands a record 8 of the top 10 positions in the globally-recognized rankings. It would be easy to assume that US higher education is in fair health, but evidence shows it is losing out to Chinese universities’ rise.

Mainland China’s Tsinghua University becomes the first-ever Asian institution to break into the THE World University Rankings top 20, claiming joint 20th this year. In contrast, the country’s representation in the top 100 has doubled, up from three in 2020 to six in 2021. In 2016, China had just two universities in the top 200; in 2021, that number stands at seven.

And outside of the elite top 200, US institutions have been on a consistent downward trend since 2016 versus their Chinese counterparts.

Just 51% of US leaders think that science and research will become significantly higher priorities for the US Government once the pandemic is over. It compares to 78% of their Chinese counterparts and 71% in the UK.

About 44% of US leaders believe that the pandemic will reduce the government’s willingness to invest in higher education over the next five years (compared to just 8% in China). Perhaps most concerning is the almost universal belief that the pandemic is likely to result in institutions going bankrupt.

With research and government funding at risk, other funding sources could become vital for success.

Together, the World University Rankings 2021 and the THE global leaders’ survey paint a worrying picture for the US that could see China’s rise through the rankings accelerate with a dramatic rebalancing of the global knowledge economy in the coming years.

Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at THE, commented:

“The THE World University Rankings 2021 is a real wake-up call for the US higher education system, which has long dominated the global knowledge economy alongside the UK. It continues a trend over the past five years that has seen China’s rapid rise breaking into the top 100 at Western institutions’ expense. It is clear from our leaders survey that without long-term commitments to funding, and an ability to reduce reliance on international student fees, China is in pole position to benefit at the expense of the United States on the global higher education stage.”


  1. University of Oxford — United Kingdom
  2. Stanford University — United States
  3. Harvard University — United States
  4. California Institute of Technology — United States
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — United States
  6. University of Cambridge — United Kingdom
  7. University of California, Berkeley — United States
  8. Yale University — United States
  9. Princeton University — United States
  10. University of Chicago — United States
  11. Imperial College London — United Kingdom
  12. Johns Hopkins University — United States
  13. University of Pennsylvania — United States
  14. ETH Zurich — Switzerland
  15. University of California, Los Angeles — United States
  16. UCL — United Kingdom
  17. Columbia University — United States
  18. University of Toronto — Canada
  19. Cornell University — United States
  20. =Duke University — United States
  21. =Tsinghua University — China
  22. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor — United States
  23. Peking University — China
  24. Northwestern University — United States
  25. National University of Singapore — Singapore

SOURCE: Times Higher Education (THE)

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Edited & Posted by the Editor | 11:47 AM | Link to this Post

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