Does Switzerland have the world’s best universities?

by Stubborn Mule on 13 October 2009 · 2 comments

Today @jgzebra drew my attention to the Times Higher Education league table of the top 200 univerities in the world. A quick glance at the list shows two US universities in the top three and six in the top 10. And indeed the United States dominates the results, claiming 54 spots out of the 200. The United Kingdom comes in next, taking 29 spots.

University Count (Mac)

Country Count in Top 200 Universities List

Of course, this tally does not take into account the differing sizes of each country: with a population of over 300 million people, you would expect a good showing from the United States. So the obvious question is, what would the national ranking look like if population were taken into account? Rather than doing this based on the number of appearances each country makes in the list, I aggregated the overall “score” awarded to each univerity (which combines scores based on surveys of peers, employers, staff and students, citations and international staff and students) and then ranked each country by aggregate score per million population*.

University Score (Mac)

Country Score per Million Population

This ranking puts Switzerland on top and pushes the United States down to 15th place. New Zealand has only three universities in the list, the best being the University of Auckland, but its small population of just over 4 million helps it up to third place. The United Kingdom ranks 7th and Australia comes in at a modest 10th place, both losing ground in this adjusted league table.

Interestingly, the Swiss themselves may not agree with their number one ranking. Most of the Swiss universities would have scored far better were it not for rather abysmal scores from staff and students. The University of Zurich fared the worst in this respect, with a staff/student score of only 22 out of 100.  The University of Basel bucked this trend, scoring an impressive 99/100 from staff and students. Unfortunately, employers do not share this rosy view, giving the University of Basel a mere 30/100.

Of course, I could take this further and take into account the wealth of each country, but for once the Mule has decided not to get carried away with the data analysis. Not much anyway.

* Data source: CIA World Factbook.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JamesGlover October 13, 2009 at 6:15 pm

I’d like to see raw score/GDP – shows brainpower vs $ to buy academic quality. Or something.

2 stubbornmule October 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm

James: I have produced a score/GDP chart.

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