Yale is now the sole occupier of the No. 2 berth in an annual ranking of the world’s top 200 universities, with many British universities sliding down the rankings this year, exacerbating their fears of inadequate funding.
For the fifth year in a row, Harvard University was first in a set of rankings produced by QS World University Rankings and the Times of London Higher Education magazine. Cambridge and Oxford universities are now in third and forth places, respectively, after sharing second place with Yale last year, and the United States continued its dominance throughout the rest of the list.
The results have renewed discussion in the United Kingdom over whether their institutions of higher education will be able to keep up with the rest of the world without increased funding.
“The rankings have increased the pressure on the government to invest more in UK higher education to ensure it remains globally competitive, and to look again at student tuition fee levels, currently restricted by law,” Phil Baty, deputy editor and news editor of the Times Higher Education magazine, wrote in an e-mail to the News. “There is a real risk that our elite universities will continue to fall behind their U.S. counterparts if there is no further investment.”
Chris Patten, the chancellor of Oxford, suggested last week in a speech to the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference of leading independent schools that the cap for undergraduate tuition fees for UK and other European Union citizens should be raised or perhaps removed.
That position will be fiercely contested in a country that very recently introduced university tuition fees at all, said Yale French professor Julia Prest, who grew up in Oxford and earned her doctorate at Cambridge.
“Nobody likes the idea of increasing tuition fees, but they’re creeping up slowly,” Prest said. “My guess would be that if there were no increase in funding, [British universities] would slip very slowly down the rankings.”
Harvard’s endowment fund, currently at $36.9 billion, is greater than the total annual public funding for all universities in England, according to the Times. The United States also spends more than twice as much on its universities as the UK as a percentage of gross domestic product.
In the QS rankings, U.S. universities held 20 of the top 50 positions, while British universities had eight. Other U.S. universities in the top 10 include the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University.
Princeton University occupied the No. 12 berth.
While many in the British higher education community seem to be taking the ranking results quite seriously, Yale Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel, who has spoken out strongly against the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, said these rankings are similarly harmful.
“[Rankings lists] distort as much as they reveal, and I do not think they are useful tools for families and students seeking a good college fit,” Brenzel wrote in an e-mail. “More importantly, they disguise the fact that much more depends on how a student engages any strong college than depends on which strong college he or she attends.”
The QS rankings, published for the fifth time this year, are based on surveys of academics and graduate employers, student-to-professor ratios, the proportion of overseas students and staff and the frequency of research citations in academic journals.
In addition to rating different sets of schools, the QS rankings and the U.S. News rankings have different methodologies, Robert Morse, the director of data research for U.S. News, told the News.
While U.S. News also uses peer assessments and student-faculty ratios, even these data are gathered and used differently, Morse said.
Yale came in third place in this year’s U.S. News rankings, behind Harvard and Princeton, which were in first and second places, respectively.