Australia shines in global university rankings 2017
Five Australian institutions claimed top-25 places in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the most international universities.
Australia has achieved stellar results in a new league table of universities which has inverted the world order by ranking US institutions as also-rans.
Five Australian institutions claimed top-25 places in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the most international universities, a new measure that takes account of the proportion of international staff and students and the strength of international reputations and cross-border research collaborations.
Australian National University claimed seventh spot, sandwiched between British heavyweights Oxford and Cambridge at sixth and eighth. Other local highlights included the universities of NSW (14th), Melbourne (18th), Monash (21st) and Sydney (24th). The table’s upper ranks are dominated by institutions in Britain, Australia and small trading hubs where English is widely spoken. Swiss institutions ETH Zurich and the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne claimed the top two places, followed by the University of Hong Kong and National University of Singapore.
The top 20 also includes institutions in Canada and France, but none in the US. Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed 22nd space, followed by Harvard (33rd), Stanford (36th) and Princeton (37th). All four are in the top 10 of university rankings.
Analysts say the league table, compiled before the Trump presidency, is a sign of things to come as the US’s inward-looking stand isolates it from global talent pools. Britain’s international standing is also set to fall because of onerous visa settings and the withdrawal from the EU, and Australia is well placed to capitalise, they say.
ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt, an American-born Nobel laureate, credited an external focus “built into our DNA” for the university’s success.
“We want to be able to bring expertise and knowledge from around the world to answer the big questions,” Professor Schmidt said. “We go after the best people. We’re in elite company and that gives us opportunities to go out and build on our strengths.”
Analyses have found that the average distance between collaborating researchers has more than quadrupled since 1980, and studies are now mostly cited in countries where they were not undertaken.
“It is simply not possible to achieve high levels of excellence without being open to the world,” ETH Zurich president Lino Guzzella said. “I know of no top university that does not have a substantial percentage of its faculty, students and workforce that are international.”
Malaysian-born Hoe Tan said there were 32 nationalities in ANU’s research school of physics, where he is deputy head. He said his own field of nanotechnology was “very internationalised”, with foreign collaborations boosting results and the prospects of commercialisation.
“Not only does it help in terms of research, but also in terms of the students’ experience,” Professor Tan said.
Times Higher Education World University Rankings editor Phil Baty said the US and Britain were sending out “powerful messages that are likely to deter international talent”.
“Australia is one of the key nations best placed to capitalise and bolster the overall performance of its universities,” he said.
Professor Schmidt said Australia’s international outlook helped counterbalance the “meagre resources” allocated to its universities. He said that while US institutions had far more resources their domestic focus worked against them.
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