Harvard named world’s best university for the 9th year in a row

·Reporter

Harvard is the world’s best university for the ninth year in a row, according to one list of rankings.

The Center for World University Rankings, a consulting firm that publishes the largest academic ranking of global universities, looked at universities across the world based on four primary indicators: quality of education (25%), alumni employment (25%), quality of faculty (10%), and research performance (40%, consisting of research output, quality of publications, influence, and citations).

(GRAPHIC: DAVID FOSTER/YAHOO FINANCE)
(GRAPHIC: DAVID FOSTER/YAHOO FINANCE)

These are the top universities in the world, according to the Center for World University Rankings:

  1. Harvard University 

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

  3. Stanford University 

  4. University of Cambridge

  5. University of Oxford 

  6. Columbia University

  7. Princeton University

  8. University of Pennsylvania

  9. University of Chicago

  10. Yale University

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Great Dome and Killian Court, MIT's quad, is pictured on the university's campus in Cambridge, MA is pictured on Feb. 12, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Great Dome and Killian Court, MIT's quad, is pictured on the university's campus in Cambridge, MA is pictured on Feb. 12, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

American colleges and universities have dominated global rankings in the nine-year-old annual analysis. However, the U.S. higher education sector — currently in turmoil amid the coronavirus pandemic — seems to be slipping a bit relative to other schools globally.

“Data has shown that the U.S. higher education is slowly eroding, and the standings of the majority of the U.S. institutions, especially lower down the table, will be at great risk if funding for higher education is cut by the Trump administration,” Dr. Nadim Mahassen, president of the Center for World University Rankings, said in a statement.

Only 16 American universities in the global top 100 list improved their ranking last year while 29 of the colleges dropped and six remained the same. (A full list can be found here.)

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Rewards for skillfully playing the prestige game are huge’

The main audience for these rankings are “not undergraduates… it's universities themselves and then also people working in government agencies around the world,” Robert Kelchen, associate professor at Seton Hall University who compiles school rankings for Washington Monthly and has warned about bogus lists, told Yahoo Money.

Kelchen noted that most undergraduates in the U.S. rely on annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, which Washington Monthly views as being based on “crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige.” 

The Center for World University Rankings started out as a project in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is now a United Arab Emirates-based consulting group that places a heavy emphasis on publications and citations. In 2015, the Washington Post expressed skepticism for the methodology underlying the organization’s rankings.

Magdalen College (a constituent college of the University of Oxford) in 2016. (PHOTO: Carl Court/Getty Images)
Magdalen College (a constituent college of the University of Oxford) in 2016. (PHOTO: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Experts have argued that rankings encourage colleges to focus less on instruction and more on prestige. 

“Among many elite institutions, and those on the threshold of the elite, rankings have gained outsized importance in the quest for ever-higher status,” authors Anthony P. Carnevale, Peter Schmidt, and Jeff Strohl wrote in their book ‘Merit Myth.’ 

“As a result, the rankings have created perverse incentives,” they added, as “colleges looking to rise in prestige emphasize what is best for their ranking over almost any other consideration.” 

And given that the “rewards for skillfully playing the prestige game are huge,” the authors stressed, the schools end up cutting off access to families who don’t have the same advantages as others.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance covering student debt and higher education. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami

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