UK and US universities dominate 2021 Times Higher Education rankings

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
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UK and US institutions continue to dominate the world’s top university rankings for 2021 in the latest Times Higher Education rankings, which were released earlier this week. 

Oxford University retained it’s spot as the best university in the world for the fifth year running, closely followed by California’s Stanford University. 

Cambridge University was the only other UK institution placed inside the top ten, with the rest of the top spots being filled by US universities and colleges, including Harvard University, California Institute of Technology, and University of California, Berkeley.

There was also success for China, as it became host to the first Asian university to place inside the top 20. The country has also doubled the number of universities it has inside the top 100, from three in 2020 to six in 2021. 

Outside of Oxbridge, London-based universities were the UK’s highest ranking, with Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) coming in at 11th, 16th and 27th respectively. 

The rankings also highlighted Australia’s growing presence in the higher education market, with around half of the country’s institutions climbing the table and improving on their position from last year. 

Canadian universities also ranked highly, with the University of Toronto coming in at 18th, the University of British Columbia 34th, and McGill University 40th. 

Whilst the UK and US still firmly occupy the most coveted spots in the rankings, the data evidences a growing trend of quality higher education moving away from the United States, with 20 of the US’ top institutions slipping down from their 2020 position. 

Wei Zhang, a lecturer in education at the University of Leicester who looks at Chinese research quality said that the coronavirus pandemic was having a greater impact on US research quality, which could propel China’s institutions forwards in terms of rankings. 

She said that China’s universities had managed to remain “largely unscathed” by the pandemic due to generous government investment that “offsets short-term income losses for universities.

“To this end, the pandemic may give Chinese universities the opportunity to close the gap with US institutions.”

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Uk and us university ranking
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