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US Domination in World University Rankings Top 10 Masks Wider Decline


The United States boasts eight universities in the top 10 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ’21. However, there are signs of its decline in the mid-ranking, where a record number of Asian, particularly Chinese, institutions marked their presence.

The challenge to the US hegemony in world education is compounded by concerns of the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other countries.

The list, released Wednesday, saw Oxford University retaining its pole position five years in a row, with Cambridge, at sixth, being the only other non-US institution in the top 10.

However, going down the ranking, China is conspicuous by its presence, doubling its representation in the top 100 from three in 2020 to six in 2021.

China had seven universities in the top 200 in this year’s ranking, compared to just two five years ago. The US, meanwhile, saw four universities slipping out of the top 200 in the same period.

China’s Tsinghua University also became the first Asian university to feature in the top 20, coming in at the joint-20th place.

US Education and Pandemic

In addition, a recent Times Higher Education survey of 200 global university leaders shows that US respondents are more concerned than their global counterparts about the impact of the pandemic on the education sector.

In one of the survey’s important findings, 44 percent of the US respondents said they are worried that the pandemic will reduce the government’s willingness to invest in higher education in the next five years, in comparison to only eight percent of Chinese respondents.

The survey also found that while more than 90 percent of US respondents think the pandemic is likely to result in institutions going bankrupt, no Chinese respondents expressed such views.

In another finding, only half of US respondents said they think science and research will become significantly high priorities for the government post-pandemic, compared to 78 percent of Chinese and 71 percent UK respondents.

Lastly, there is a stark disparity in terms of the countries’ perceived ability to host international students once the pandemic is over. Of US respondents, 92 percent believe the outbreak will negatively impact on the ability of US institutions to recruit international students, compared to just 57 percent in China and 67 percent in the UK.

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