Europe struggles to remain globally competitive in world university rankings

In the latest global university league tables, Europe has generally fared badly with many former top performing universities slipping down the rankings.

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The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published this month, look at each university’s research impact, research reputation and research income, as well as their ability to attract international faculty and international students. Universities have a huge impact on their local economies, attracting talent to a region, attracting inward investment, creating local jobs and spinning out businesses from research discoveries and new ideas.While the California Institute of Technology retains its place at the top for the third consecutive year, the top universities in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Russia, Belgium, the Republic of Ireland and Austria have all fallen down the list.“France has eight institutions in the world top 200 list, but this is no time for overconfidence,” says Phil Baty editor of the rankings. “it has no top 50 players and most of its representatives have fallen down the table.“Across France, there has been a significant decrease in research paper citations, the most heavily weighted rankings indicator. With the global academic community increasingly using English as the language of global scholarship, these disappointing results are likely to intensify debate about the promotion of English in French institutions.”While the UK’s number one, Oxford, holds on to second place in the table, almost across the board the continent’s top institutions lose ground: ETH Zürich ­- Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich, the world number one outside the US and the UK, slips two places to 14th; Germany’s University of Munich falls out of the top 50; and it is a similar tale of woe for Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and Austria.Scandinavia is an exception to the trend, with its top institutions strengthening their positions. Sweden’s Karolinska Institute rises six places to 36th, and there are also impressive gains for Stockholm University (up 14 places to joint 103rd) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (which jumps to joint 117th). Norway regains a foothold in the top 200 with the University of Oslo (joint 185th). The Technical University of Denmark leaps 32 places to joint 117th with KTH. Finland’s University of Helsinki also makes the top 100.The UK remains Europe’s strongest representative, with 31 universities in the top 200. The Netherlands has 12 players, followed by Germany with 10 (down from 11 last year), France with eight, Switzerland with seven and Belgium with five (one more than last year).Sweden has five top 200 representatives, Demark as three, Ireland has two, while Austria and Finland have one each.Turkey and Spain join the elite top 200 group this year. The former’s Boğaziçi University makes it to joint 199th and the latter’s Pompeu Fabra University, defying economic gloom in the country, leaps to joint 164th. Norway’s University of Oslo also returns to the top 200, in 185th place.Russia has no top 200 institutions and has fallen further behind. Its top institution, Lomonsov State University falls from the 201-225 group into the 226-250 band. However, Russia has strong performing institutions too small and specialist for the overall tables which do well in the physical sciences subject rankings. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology takes joint 63rd place and National Research Nuclear University (Mephi) takes 74th place for physical sciences.

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