U.S. Public Universities Are Falling Behind

No worries here.

Photographer: Michael Fein/Bloomberg

For the first time, neither of the top two institutions in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which came out this week, is in the U.S.

Instead, they — the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge — are both in England. Given that Times Higher Education magazine is also based in England and a significant part of its ranking is based on a reputation survey conducted among academics,


you may wish to take this result with a grain of salt.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities from the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, which is based solely on output measures such as prizes won by faculty members and articles published in top journals, put Harvard and Stanford universities in the top two spots in its latest edition last month, with Cambridge in third place, Oxford in seventh and U.S. universities filling out the rest of the top 10. The QS World University Rankings from the career and education networking company formerly known as Quacquarelli Symonds,


 which came out in June and are tilted heavily toward reputation, gave the top four spots to U.S. institutions — although the next four did go to English ones.

Ranking the World's Universities

The new top 10 lists

All these rankings are of course flawed and incomplete and backward-looking and all the other bad things you can say about academic rankings. But they are really interesting — especially if you look back a few years. What they show is not entirely flattering to the U.S. system of higher education.