World University Rankings 2022: keep on the sunny side

High-rising regions have reason to be heartened, but even in areas facing grave threats leaders keep their spirits up and carry on, says Ellie Bothwell

September 2, 2021
'Hope' rainbow sculpture depicting healthcare workers
Source: Getty

Browse the full results of the World University Rankings 2022

Download a copy of the World University Rankings 2022 report


If I asked you to name the fastest-rising higher education system in the world, the chances are you would say “China”. And the results of the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings would provide compelling evidence.

The country now has two universities in the top 20 for the first time, with Peking and Tsinghua sharing 16th place, and a remarkable 10 institutions in the top 200, up from seven last year and just three 10 years ago.

But when looking at the full list of more than 1,600 institutions in this year’s table, and comparing this alongside data from four years ago, you might be pushed to give a different response. On that basis, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would both be valid answers, suggesting that these nations might be most likely to emulate China’s success at the top of the ranking in future years.

But at a time when countries and universities are still reeling from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, progress for any system is not guaranteed. In one of our analysis articles, Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, warns that coronavirus’ impact on lower-income countries presents “an existential threat”, while World Bank expert Roberta Malee Bassett says “getting back to normal operations” in these nations “will be delayed in a way that will not be experienced in wealthier countries”.

Challenges are not confined only to the poorer higher education systems, although funding does appear to be a major sticking point in many cases. Brian Schmidt, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, says in another piece that if his country does not recover its pre-Covid market share of international students, “the reality is there is no other source of money on the [same] scale, and we’re going to do less research and we’re going to teach our students with less resources”.

But despite the rough terrain ahead, university leaders also tend to be eternal optimists, with presidents often implying that it would be impossible to do their job without an overabundant sense of hope. It is this faith – particularly in the people who make up universities – that will see them through the coming years.

As outgoing Northwestern University president Morton Schapiro writes: “I will miss so much of my job, especially the intellectual stimulation that comes from engaging with brilliant and committed students inside and outside the classroom, the thrill of learning from my faculty colleagues about fields other than my own, and the privilege of working alongside staff members who move the institution onwards every single day, often without fanfare.”

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com


Countries/regions represented in the top 200

Country/region

Number of institutions in top 200

Top institution

Rank

United States

57

California Institute of Technology

=2

 

 

Harvard University

=2

United Kingdom

28

University of Oxford

1

Germany

22

LMU Munich

32

Australia

12

University of Melbourne

33

China

10

Peking University,

=16

 

 

Tsinghua University

=16

Netherlands

10

Wageningen University & Research

53

Canada

7

University of Toronto

=18

Switzerland

7

ETH Zurich

15

South Korea

6

Seoul National University

=54

France

5

Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris

=40

Hong Kong

5

University of Hong Kong

=30

Sweden

5

Karolinska Institute

39

Belgium

4

KU Leuven

=42

Denmark

3

University of Copenhagen

=96

Italy

3

University of Bologna

=172

Spain

3

Pompeu Fabra University

156

Austria

2

University of Vienna

=137

Japan

2

The University of Tokyo

=35

Singapore

2

National University of Singapore

21

Finland

1

University of Helsinki

=101

New Zealand

1

University of Auckland

=137

Norway

1

University of Oslo

=119

Republic of Ireland

1

Trinity College Dublin

=146

Russian Federation

1

Lomonosov Moscow State University

=158

Saudi Arabia

1

King Abdulaziz University

=190

South Africa

1

University of Cape Town

=183

Taiwan

1

National Taiwan University (NTU)

=113

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