Universities with a clear focus on reputation continue to perform strongly in the latest THE World University Rankings (WUR 2021), with 72% of W100 Reputation Network members improving or maintaining their position. 

With the results of academic reputation surveys forming 33% of the total scores in the THE tableuniversities are increasingly focused on strategies to raise their profile with international academics, driven in part by the recent W100 research on rankings influencers. 

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were not felt substantially in this year’s results, with the academic reputation surveys closing in February 2020. This year’s WUR will perhaps be seen in the future as the final expression of pre-COVID positioning for universities. 

W100 members making progress 

W100 members now make up 20% of universities in the THE top 200, with University of Toronto (18thleading the way, joined by National University of Singapore (25th, LSE (27th) and Edinburgh (30th) in the global top 30. 

The University of Melbourne (31st, King’s College London (35th) and McGill University (40th) all improved their positions in the top 50. The universities of Manchester and Sydney both saw substantial rises to lie joint 51st. 

Other big risers amongst members in the top 100 included UNSW Sydney (67th), McMaster University (72nd), and the University of Glasgow (92nd). 

Australian and Canadian gains 

Joining Melbourne, Sydney, and UNSW in improving their positions were University Technology Sydney (up 34 places to 160) and the University of Newcastle. With the University of Wollongong maintaining their position, the strong focus on reputation from all W100 Australian members continues to bear fruit. The impacts of the pandemic will be interesting to watch next year. 

Canadian universities also performed well with University of Alberta joining Toronto and McMaster in improving its ranking, and other W100 members UBC and Concordia maintaining their positions. 

With Canada well placed to benefit in the post-COVID world, after handling the pandemic much better than its neighbour to the south, further reputation gains look likely in the future. 

Europe suffering 

W100 members in continental European fared much less well in this year’s THE table, with many Dutch universities, in particular, seeing their rankings positions fall. Bucking the trend was Maastricht University, rising 6 places to 121st. 

Hamburg University also performed well, rising 14 places to 135th, reflecting a generally strong performance from universities across Germany. 

Mixed picture for UK universities 

The continuing fall-out from Brexit is often credited as a driver for the generally disappointing trend for UK universities in the THE table. However, it was not all bad news with Oxford retaining the top spot and seven UK W100 members improving their positions, with Birmingham, LancasterNewcastle and Queen’s University Belfast all making gains alongside King’s, Manchester and Glasgow. 

UK universities have traditionally been seen to benefit from the focus on internationalisation in the THE methodology, alongside their strong performances in the reputation study. As with Australia, this may present a challenge for future years. 

Asia still rises 

The performance of Chinese universities, in particular, has continued its upward trend in the THE rankings, with Tsinghua joining the top 20 and two more institutions entering the top 100.  

For W100 members, NUS maintained its top 25 position this year, and Korea University saw a jump of 12 places to 167th. 

What’s next? 

The THE World University Rankings are the third of the major global league table to report this year, with US News & World Report Global Rankings due next in October. See W100’s analysis of the QS and Shanghai Rankings. 

The COVID pandemic could well have a substantial impact on future rankings. We will debate this issue and broader ways of measuring reputation at the forthcoming W100 Virtual Annual Conference in November.