The Top 200 World Universities of 2009

Top 10 or 100 lists of universities or colleges are the type of thing people in higher education love to hate and hate to love. Times Higher Education from the U.K. recently published its list of the Top 200 World Universities for 2009. Of course there is no shortage of American universities on the list and the usual cadre of big names are all comfortably near the top.

What always strikes me about these things is how they always vary from year to year, yet I wonder how much has changed at the institutions themselves during this time. Take the top 20 – most of which are from the U.S. and U.K. – is there really a major difference in the quality of the education between them? You have to wonder how much effort has been expended at some of these institutions in order to move one or two places on the list – just to edge out their rival.

Another striking aspect of these lists is how some institutions seem to swing wildly up or down by as many as 20 or 30 places in a given year. I have a hard time considering what changed at such an institution in so little time to warrant such a movement in ranking. In fact, I’d argue that the pace of change in higher education simply is not fast enough for the results of any change that may have been implemented to be felt in that short of a time.

To the extent that such lists spur both institutions and people to strive for excellence, than I suppose they are a good thing. However, I know quite a few institutions that do not make it onto such lists that nonetheless provide students with a myriad of opportunity and high-quality educations – including community colleges.

The top 20 of the Top 200 World Universities:

2007 Rank 2006 Rank Name Country Peer Review Score Employer Review Score Staff/Student Score Citations/Staff Score International Staff Score International Student Score Overall Score
1 1 Harvard University US 100 100 98 100 85 78 100.0
2 3 University of Cambridge UK 100 100 100 89 98 96 99.6
3 2 Yale University US 100 99 100 94 85 77 99.1
4 7 University College London UK 98 99 100 90 96 99 99.0
5= 6 Imperial College London UK 100 100 100 80 98 100 97.8
5= 4 University of Oxford UK 100 100 100 80 96 97 97.8
7 8 University of Chicago US 100 99 97 88 77 83 96.8
8 12 Princeton University US 100 96 82 100 89 81 96.6
9 9 Massachusetts Institute of Technology US 100 100 89 100 31 95 96.1
10 5 California Institute of Technology US 99 72 87 100 100 89 95.9
11 10 Columbia University US 100 99 97 92 28 89 95.6
12 11 University of Pennsylvania US 96 99 85 98 82 60 94.2
13 13= Johns Hopkins University US 98 79 100 99 28 71 94.1
14 13= Duke University US 95 97 100 93 29 62 92.9
15 15 Cornell University US 100 99 85 94 28 73 92.5
16 17 Stanford University US 100 100 71 100 25 96 92.2
17 16 Australian National University Australia 100 91 75 74 99 92 90.5
18 20 McGill University Canada 100 97 92 61 67 95 90.4
19 18 University of Michigan US 99 99 85 81 57 52 89.9
20= 23 University of Edinburgh UK 97 99 84 65 93 86 89.3
20= 24 ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) Switzerland 97 80 55 99 100 94 89.3