Young University Rankings 2022: results announced

French institution tops table for first time as country’s consolidation strategy appears to pay off 

February 15, 2022
Source: iStock

View the THE Young University Rankings 2022 results

A French university leads the Times Higher Education Young University Rankings for the first time, the latest data reveal.

Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris has overtaken Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, the highest-ranking institution in 2021. 

France now has 24 universities in the young table (up from 16 five years ago), five in the top 20 and 12 in the top 100. It also marks the first time since 2017 that a university outside Asia has claimed the top spot in the ranking, which only includes universities that are 50 years old or younger.

PSL was formed in 2010 and consists of 11 schools. Its overall score in the Young University Rankings is 76.6 out of a possible 100; it scores above 70 on all five pillars, and over 80 for citations and international outlook. It is only the second university outside Asia to ever top the table since the inception of the ranking in 2012; the other is École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, which was number one from 2015 to 2017, before dropping out of the list in 2020 after reaching its 51st birthday. 

All French universities in the young table score particularly well for international outlook, with an average score of 69 out of a possible 100. They also score highly for citations, with an average of 56. The average score for research is 35, and 40 for teaching.  

Download a free copy of the Young University Rankings 2022 digital report

The rise of young French universities reflects a strategy of consolidation of older institutions, begun in 2010 by then president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Initiatives d’Excellence (Idex). The programme sought to improve French universities and the country’s performance in international rankings by combining smaller institutions into more comprehensive universities. 

Enora Pruvot, deputy director of governance, funding and public policy development at the European University Association, said that after the 1960s, France “had a higher education landscape that was extremely fractured”.

“You’d usually have up to three university-type institutions per big city, and they would be divided according to discipline, such as hard sciences, or medical studies or legal studies,” she said.

Institutions were named after the city and a number, such as Paris 1, “which is fine as long as you’re only evolving in a purely national context. But as soon as you’re starting to open up to the international higher education and research landscape, then you have a very specific problem of visibility, and also competitiveness,” Ms Pruvot said.

“You can’t compete. There was no comprehensive university, basically, in France, at the time,” she added.

Alain Fuchs, president of PSL, said that the university brought together institutions in Paris that were high-achieving but too small to compete globally.

“When we decided to put together PSL we merged very selective schools. Excellent schools with fantastic students because they’re selected through nationwide examination. And with some of the best researchers in France,” he said.

“Thanks to PSL these schools are able to develop initiatives that none of them would have been able to carry out on their own.”

The merger has meant PSL has access to Idex funding, researchers can carry out more ambitious projects and students have a more interdisciplinary education by studying in more than one school.

Turkey, India and Iran have also significantly boosted their numbers of institutions in the Young University Rankings, with the former two nations now the most-represented countries in the table. Turkey and India each have 40 ranked universities, up from 23 and 26 respectively in 2020. Iran now has 37 young universities in the rankings, up from 20 two years ago.

THE Young University Rankings 2022: the top 10

Rank 2022 Rank 2021 Institution Country/region Foundation year
1 2 Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France 2010
2 1 Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore 1991
3 3 The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong 1991
4 NR Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands 1973
5 12 Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong 1994
6 NR Institut Polytechnique de Paris France 2019
7 11 University of Antwerp Belgium 2003
8 9 University of Technology Sydney Australia 1988
9 6 Maastricht University Netherlands 1976
10 5 City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 1984

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