The pandemic may encourage the idea that there are few certainties in life anymore. However, some things really don’t change– and that certainly applies to the upper echelons of the latest league table published by Academic Ranking of World Universities .

The same ten global superbrand universities as last year dominate the top of the ARWU (previously known as the Shanghai Rankings). This is unsurprising, given the focus of the methodology on research metrics, including historical achievements such as Nobel Prize wins.

It may well be that research indicators are influenced in future years by changes brought about by the pandemic, but with the lack of any specific focus on reputation in the methodology, there is relatively little we can learn this year about how the global standing of institutions is changing.

Chinese progress continues

A consistent feature of the ARWU in recent years has been the rising up the table of the leading Chinese universities. Tsinghua and Peking universities both improved their positions once again this year within the top 50.

The fastest riser was Fudan University, jumping from 100 to 77. Zheijiang University and Shanghai Jiao Tong also move into the 50s – the latter continuing years of progress unrelated to the ARWU originating at that university.

French universities continued their progress after recent re-organisations to their system, with three universities in the top 40 and the Sorbonne performing particularly well (up 4 to 35).

Australian institutions were other notable risers, with World 100 members Melbourne, Queensland, UNSW, and Sydney all improving their positions within the top 100.

french unisAcademic Ranking of World Universities 2021

W100 member success

Despite the lack of focus on reputation in the ranking methodology, most W100 members improved or maintained their positions in the ARWU, led by the University of Toronto (22nd), University of Melbourne (33rd) and University of Manchester (35th).

McGill University maintained its progress, rising a further 11 places after jumping 12 last year. UNSW Sydney has seen a similar trajectory, rising 9 places this year to 65th after a 20-place rise in 2020.

Overall, 16 W100 members made the top 100, and  26 members are now in the top 200 of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, including University of Southampton as new entrants.

Members Performance Academic Ranking of World Universities 2021