Record number of world’s top universities led by women

Share of female vice-chancellors at high-ranking institutions surpasses 20 per cent for first time based on THE World University Rankings data 

March 3, 2022
Carol Christ - Top 10 universities led by women
Carol Christ

View the full list of the top universities led by women

More than one-fifth of the world’s top universities are led by women, marking a new milestone for female advancement in academia, according to an analysis of Times Higher Education World University Rankings data.

Forty-three – or 21 per cent – of the top 200 universities in the latest 2022 ranking have a female leader, up from 41 (20 per cent) last year and 34 (17 per cent) in 2018 – an average rise of 1 percentage point per year. If progress continues at the same rate, it will take until 2051 for parity to be achieved in the leadership of top universities. The 2022 ranking included 201 institutions in the top 200, while the 2021 ranking included 202, because several universities at the bottom of the band received joint scores.

The US has seen the biggest gain in terms of the number of universities led by women, after facing the largest decline last year. Thirteen of the country’s 57 top-200 representatives (23 per cent) have a female leader in 2022, up from 10 out of 59 last year.

Germany has seen the reverse trend; just two of its 22 universities (9 per cent) are now led by women, down from four out of 21 in 2021.

Switzerland is the only other country that has seen a drop in its number of female leaders. Only one out of its seven top 200 representatives (14 per cent) are led by a women, down from two out of seven last year.

The Republic of Ireland joins Finland, New Zealand and South Africa as nations with the highest proportion of female leaders; each country has just one university in the top 200, but all four are led by women. In August, Linda Doyle was elected provost of Trinity College Dublin, making her the first female leader in the institution’s 429-year history.

France is the only other country where the majority of its top 200-representatives are led by women. Three of its five institutions (60 per cent) have a female leader, up from two out of five last year, after Sorbonne University elected Nathalie Drach-Temam as president in December.

The Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, the UK and Australia also outperform the global average in terms of their share of female-led top universities, according to the analysis, which was conducted ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Of the 27 countries/regions that feature in the top 200, 13 have no female university leaders in that group.

The list of the world’s top 10 universities led by women is likely to look quite different next year, as half of this year’s cohort have announced that their current leader is due to leave.

Louise Richardson has announced that she is stepping down from the University of Oxford at the end of December 2022, while Alice Gast and Suzanne Fortier will be leaving Imperial College London and McGill University respectively in August. It has already been announced that Hugh Brady will replace Professor Gast, which will result in Imperial dropping out of the list of top female-led universities.

Amy Gutmann departed the University of Pennsylvania last month after an 18-year-reign, but is due to be replaced by another female leader, Elizabeth Magill, in July. Mary Sue Coleman is acting president of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor following the sudden departure of Mark Schlissel in January.

Top 10 universities led by women

 THE World University Rank 2022  University Country University leader
1 University of Oxford United Kingdom Louise Richardson
8 University of California, Berkeley United States Carol Christ
12 Imperial College London United Kingdom Alice Gast
=13 University of Pennsylvania United States Amy Gutmann
22 Cornell University United States Martha Pollack
=24 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor United States Mary Sue Coleman (acting)
27 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom Minouche Shafik
29 University of Washington United States Ana Mari Cauce
44 McGill University Canada Suzanne Fortier
50 University of Manchester United Kingdom Nancy Rothwell

Note: The analysis was based on the university leader in post on 1 February 2022.

Times Higher Education report on how global universities are performing on gender equality, based on data collected for the THE Impact Rankings, will be published and launched at a webinar on International Women’s Day on 8 March. Register to attend.

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