World's best universities ranked by 'reputation'

Harvard Harvard, the richest and now the most highly-regarded university in the world

Harvard University in the United States has been ranked as the university with the best "reputation" in the world.

The Times Higher Education magazine has listed 200 top universities based on how they are regarded by a panel of international academics.

In third place, Cambridge is the top rated among UK universities.

In the wake of the LSE's embarrassment over links with Libya, reputation has been seen as a valuable but fragile commodity for universities.

Sir Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics, stepped down because he feared the institution's reputation had suffered from the associations with the Gaddafi regime.

Overseas students

Global league tables have spread across higher education - and have become important to marketing courses to the three million international students.

But this latest table is different in that it measures how universities are regarded, rather than how they actually performed.

A subjective, word-of-mouth quality such as "reputation" has genuine economic value for universities, said Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

"Reputation is not an illusion, though it might be more vulnerable and fragile than performance by objective indicators," said Prof Marginson.

Based on the views of 13,000 academics around the world, it confirms the status of the big US universities, which dominate this league table.


  • 1. Harvard
  • 2. MIT
  • 3. Cambridge
  • 4. California, Berkeley
  • 5. Stanford
  • 6. Oxford
  • 7. Princeton
  • 8. Tokyo
  • 9. Yale
  • 10. California Institute of Technology

Source: Times Higher Education

Seven of the top 10 are US universities, headed by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Furthermore, 14 of the top 20 are from the US.

Cambridge is the highest ranking UK university in the list, in third place, with Oxford ranked as sixth.

The LSE, in a table drawn up before its problems with Libya, is in 37th place.

For students applying to university, reputation might be hard to quantify, but was an important part of the appeal, said the president of Cambridge University's students' union, Rahul Mansigani.

"Reputation makes a huge difference. If there is a perception that somewhere is brilliant, it will get lots of good people applying whether it's true or not," he said.

Factors such as a sense of history and the presence of leading academics were part of the reputation of Cambridge, he said.

But with worries about university links with dubious regimes, he warned about the need to protect the "moral reputation" of a university.

"They need to be very wary of who they deal with - with no compromise over academic freedom," he said.

Global reach

Reputation is also a highly valued prize for universities such as MIT, ranked in second place - with particular importance for an institution's international reach.

So much so that that they might have a bigger global reputation than in some places nearer home.

"For a place like MIT, which is primarily about science and technology, reputation is critical," said Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, director and associate dean of MIT's International Students Office.

"We have a very good reputation in countries that value science and technological education. MIT really resonates in most Asian countries.

"Whereas you could find a small rural town in the US, where they might not have ever heard of MIT - your average person in China who has had any education will know what it means."

Sally Hunt, head of the UCU lecturers' union in the UK, warned that reputation should not be relied upon as an alternative to financial investment.

"We will soon get found out if we think we can trade on reputation alone," she said.

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, said: "In an ever more competitive global market... a university's reputation for academic excellence is crucial."

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