World Reputation Rankings 2021: everlasting esteem?

Rising to pandemic challenges won institutions a significant boost in profile. It remains to be seen if they can consolidate their gains, writes Ellie Bothwell

October 27, 2021
Source: iStock

Browse the THE World Reputation Rankings 2021 results


What are the ingredients for building a strong university reputation? High-quality research? Innovative teaching? World-leading scholars and staff? A diverse and inclusive community?

One other element that has been illuminated over the past 20 months is how an institution responds in a crisis. What has been the balance of online and face-to-face teaching during the Covid-19 crisis? How has the university prioritised key areas of research? To what extent has there been support for mental health and well-being? How well have university leaders communicated with their community?

The impact of all these decisions on prestige – among students, academics, the public and governments – still remains to be seen, but there are initial signs that universities’ responses to the pandemic have begun to feed into leading scholars’ views of the best universities for teaching and research.

The University of Oxford has climbed into the top five of our World Reputation Rankings 2021 largely thanks to an improved research reputation score in a year when its scientists developed a Covid-19 vaccine. Tsinghua University is the first Chinese institution to join the top 10, having published highly influential research relating to the coronavirus.


Countries/regions represented in THE World Reputation Rankings 2021

Country/region

Number of institutions in top 200

Top institution

Rank

United States

57

Harvard University

1

United Kingdom

25

University of Oxford

3

China

17

Tsinghua University

10

Germany

14

LMU Munich

=39

Japan

11

The University of Tokyo

13

Netherlands

9

Delft University of Technology

=50

Australia

6

University of Melbourne

46

Canada

6

University of Toronto

21

France

6

Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris

=48

Russian Federation

5

Lomonosov Moscow State University

38

South Korea

5

Seoul National University

=41

Sweden

5

Karolinska Institute

61-70

Hong Kong

4

University of Hong Kong

=48

India

4

Indian Institute of Science

91-100

Italy

4

University of Bologna

126-150

 

 

Politecnico di Milano

126-150

 

 

Sapienza University of Rome

126-150

Belgium

3

KU Leuven

51-60

Switzerland

3

ETH Zurich

18

Brazil

2

University of São Paulo

81-90

Denmark

2

University of Copenhagen

81-90

Finland

2

University of Helsinki

101-125

Israel

2

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

151-175

Singapore

2

National University of Singapore

24

Taiwan

2

National Taiwan University (NTU)

61-70

Austria

1

University of Vienna

101-125

Mexico

1

National Autonomous University of Mexico

176-200

Norway

1

University of Oslo

126-150

Republic of Ireland

1

Trinity College Dublin

151-175

Saudi Arabia

1

King Abdulaziz University

176-200

Spain

1

Autonomous University of Barcelona

176-200


While we do not know for certain the reasons behind academics’ votes in our annual reputation survey, there have also been boosts for other institutions that have been prominent in the pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University’s research and teaching reputation scores both increased after a team at the institution developed an online data dashboard for tracking the spread of the virus that has clocked up billions of page views (even though the university dropped one place in rank to 20th because of the strong competition at the top of the table).

Imperial College London, where academics’ statistical modelling has informed governments and public health agencies in the UK and around the world, has similarly improved scores on both measures in the ranking (but it, too, has slipped one position in the table). And Germany’s Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, whose Institute of Virology has been led by one of the most successful science communicators of the crisis, Christian Drosten, makes its debut in the list, in the 176-200 band.

In our analysis (see page 6), university leaders and communications experts reveal how institutions have been able to leverage reputational benefit from the high profile of Covid-related research and explore whether such a boost can be sustained.

For Mark Scott, the recently appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, whose previous roles include political adviser, journalist and media administrator, the extent to which universities continue to shout about their achievements will be key.

“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,” he writes on page 30.

“How well we continue to share these stories with government, industry and an increasingly sceptical public will be fundamental to our shared future success.”

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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