THE World University Rankings 2019: evolution and expansion

Over a decade and a half, our rankings have grown in depth, breadth and function, Phil Baty explains

September 26, 2018
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Browse the full results of the World University Rankings 2019

We have come a long way. This is the 15th edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings – an appropriate moment to reflect on the amazing evolution of our data and analyses since our first tentative publication in 2004.

Today’s rankings, our 2019 edition, are very different from those we produced all those years ago – in depth, in breadth and in function.

The 2004 ranking was based on just six simple and relatively crude metrics. Today’s is based on 13 carefully calibrated, comprehensive performance indicators, encompassing the full range of a world-class research university’s core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The 2004 ranking included a survey of just a few thousand academics. This year’s includes the informed views of more than 20,000 scholars – all published experts and all carefully selected to be statistically representative of their country.

The 2004 ranking included 200 universities. Today’s analysis takes in more than 1,200 institutions – the top 1,000 ranked and analysed in our print supplement, with the full list of 1,258 included and profiled online.

The 2004 ranking covered 29 regions, while this edition covers an unprecedented 86 territories.

The 2004 ranking was based on a few thousand datapoints, all sourced from third parties. Today’s research is built on THE ’s own database of many millions of datapoints that detail student and staff demographics, reputation and finances, all broken down into 11 broad subject areas and stretching over multiple years.

This last point underpins the most profound change over the past decade and a half – the fundamental transformation of a modest list into a sophisticated, multifaceted and far-reaching enterprise.


Download a copy of the World University Rankings 2019 digital supplement


As a resolutely global business, THE today provides sophisticated data-driven insights and analyses to students and their families, to academics, university leaders, industry and investors, and to politicians and governments, right across the world.

The original idea for the rankings came from a December 2003 report for the UK government: the Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration . In it, Richard Lambert, a former director of the UK employers’ group the CBI, lamented that UK universities were “still much too inclined to benchmark themselves against each other, failing to recognise that in a global marketplace what counts is how they stand up against the best in the world”.

A global ranking, he continued, “would provide the Government with a way of assessing its research funding efforts. It would provide academics with a valuable reality check, and help vice-chancellors in their efforts to win the support of their colleagues and the Government for their strategic plans.”

Not only did THE rise to that challenge, we delivered beyond those initial expectations – creating rigorous and trusted global strategic benchmarking data and analyses not just in the interests of the UK, as Lambert envisaged, but for the whole world.

In the process, we have become a central part of a profoundly exciting movement in global higher education and research: internationalisation.

As The Economist noted on 19 May 2018, global university rankings have “fostered the growth of a community that knows no borders…the world benefits from this productive, international body of scholars”.

We very much look forward to supporting this community, and all of those with a stake in the success of the world’s great research universities, over the next 15 years and beyond. 

Phil Baty is editorial director, global rankings, at Times Higher Education.


Countries/regions represented in the top 200

Country/region    

Number of institutions in top 200

Top institution

Rank

United States

60

Stanford University

3

United Kingdom

29

University of Oxford

1

Germany

23

LMU Munich

=32

Netherlands

12

Delft University of Technology

58

Australia

9

University of Melbourne

=32

Canada

9

University of Toronto

21

China

7

Tsinghua University

22

Switzerland

7

ETH Zurich

11

Hong Kong

5

University of Hong Kong

36

South Korea

5

Seoul National University

63

Sweden

5

Karolinska Institute

40

Denmark

4

University of Copenhagen

=116

France

4

Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris

41

Belgium

3

KU Leuven

48

Italy

3

Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna

=153

Finland

2

University of Helsinki

=99

Japan

2

The University of Tokyo

42

Norway

2

University of Oslo

=121

Singapore

2

National University of Singapore

23

Spain

2

Pompeu Fabra University

=135

Austria

1

University of Vienna

=143

Republic of Ireland

1

Trinity College Dublin

120

Russian Federation

1

Lomonosov Moscow State University

=199

South Africa

1

University of Cape Town

=156

Taiwan

1

National Taiwan University

170

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