The latest league table published by Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) shows a higher degree of change from the previous year than is usually expected from this most stable of the global rankings. 

The ARWU (previously known as the Shanghai Rankings) was the original global league table, first produced in 2004, and is primarily driven by research metrics, including historical achievements such as Nobel Prize wins. It has therefore traditionally seen fewer major changes year-on-year than the other rankings influenced more by annual factors such as reputation surveys.  

French and Chinese progress 

A big change this year was four French universities entering the top 100, reflecting recent mergers.  Paris-Saclay University ranked 14thfollowed by PSL University(36th), University of Paris(65th) and Université Grenoble Alpes(99th). With the Sorbonne also ranking highly, France has overtaken Germany and Netherlands as the leading continental European country in the top 100.  

The leading Chinese university, Tsinghua improved its position dramatically, rising from 43rd to 29th. With two further universities entering the top 100 for the first time, University of Science and Technology of China(73th) and Fudan University(100th)the AWRU rankings reflect the continuing rise in Chinese research strength. 

The top echelons of the ARWU table continues to be dominated by US institutions, led by Harvard (for the 18th straight year), with only Oxford (9th) breaking the American monopoly of the top 10. 

W100 member success 

Six World 100 members made the top 50, with University of Toronto (23rd), University of Melbourne (35th) and King’s College London (47th) all improving their positions. 

A further 10 W100 members made the top 100, with dramatic rises for UNSW Sydney – up from 20 places to 74th – and McGill University, rising 12 places to 78th. 

Other W100 members seeing improved positions were the University Newcastle, University of Navarra, and Alcala University. 

The AWRU Rankings methodology does not include any direct measures of reputation, but performance in the league table continues to be regarded as an indicator of research strength. 


Further points of note 

  • With increasing interest in different ways of measuring university performance,  it is notable that only 12 of the top 100 in the AWRU feature in the top 100 of the THE Impact Rankings – and 10 of those are W100 members. 
  • Institutions from continental Europe continue to perform better in the AWRU Rankings than the QS, THE and USN&WR tables, reflecting their underlying research strengths against more challenging scores in reputation surveys. 
  • Converselythe UK features only 8 universities in the ARWU top 100, compared to 11 in the THE and 19 in the UK rankings.