It’s a busy time of year for rankings. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the publication of the 2018 US News & World Report Best Global Universities; the Times Higher Education has published an Employability Ranking; and the annual conference organised by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who run the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

What have we learned? The 2018 US News & World Report ranking continues to be dominated at the top level by the ‘superbrands’ – as predicted by the W100 Rankings Influencers research, in which academics who take part in reputation surveys expected that the top universities would be largely unchanged over the next 5 years.

Only Oxford and Cambridge from the UK prevent the top 10 being exclusively occupied by the US institutions, which changed little from the previous year. One addition, in joint 10th place was next year’s World 100 Conference host, the University of Washington, having risen 4 places. Two other W100 members, University of Michigan and University of Toronto, are in the top 20.

The USN&WR ranking methodology includes a survey of academic reputation undertaken by Clarivate (formerly the data arm of Thomson Reuters). Details of how the reputation survey is carried out – and how academics make decisions in filling in such surveys –  are contained in the recent W100 research report on Ranking Influencers.

The Global University Employability Rankings, undertaken by Emerging, an HR company from France, show the top US universities dominating, but a different picture to other league tables further down, with stronger performances from European institutions – France and Germany are both better represented than the UK, for example. 150 universities are ranked, with W100 members Toronto, NUS, King’s College London, Manchester, UBC, LSE, Sydney and Melbourne all featuring in the top 50.

This ranking is based on two online surveys: with 2500 graduate recruiters in 22 different countries; and with 3500 Managing Directors of global companies. Participants can nominate up to 15 universities they judge to produce the best graduates in terms of employability.

The 7th International Conference on Word Class Universities hosted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, saw an impressive array of Presidents and other senior figures gather to chew the fat on the ‘Global Common Good and Seeking National and Institutional Contributions’ – with rankings no-doubt a constant under-current.

Amongst the reported highlights were a keynote by Professor Simon Marginson from the UCL Institute of Education, who noted that “though national governments often see science and World Class Universities (WCUs) as weapons of national competition, and while each universities wants a better ranking, WCUs are primarily cooperative and positive-sum.”

He also made some interesting observations about the growing influence of Chinese universities. 2 out of the top 5 institutions in the world for numbers of scientific papers produced between 2012-5 were Zhejiang and Shanghai Jiao Tong universities. And the number of Chinese universities in the Shanghai Rankings top 500 had grown from 8 to 45 between 2005 and 2017.

A theme across the presentations at the Conference was the perceived challenge that universities across the globe are under as a result of current political currents criticizing globalization; and the need for the academy to be bold and fight back.