• The Times Higher Education survey ranks the world’s universities by global reputation.
  • Harvard takes the top spot in 2021 for the 11th consecutive year.
  • US universities dominate the table once more.
  • But China has broken into the top 10 for the first time.
  • Oxford University moved into third place in the year that saw it deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.

Harvard University has topped the poll of the world’s top universities by reputation for the 11th consecutive year.

Almost 11,000 academics across 128 countries have named the universities they think are the best for research and teaching in their field for Times Higher Education’s (THE) World Reputation Rankings 2021.

The US as a whole remains the most represented country, with 57 institutions named in the rankings, while the UK has the second-highest number, at 25.

There is also no change among the top six, with THE noting that Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Stanford, Cambridge and Berkeley are “a breakaway group of global university super brands”.

China breaks through

One notable newcomer this year is China.

Tsinghua University in Beijing has risen three places this year to number 10, becoming the first Chinese institution to break through into the top 10.

Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at THE, thinks this is significant. “We could see a shift in the balance of power in global higher education over the coming years as mainland China becomes a more attractive proposition for academics and students to work and study. This could not only cause issues for the likes of the US and UK in terms of attracting talent, but also funding and prestige on the world stage.”

Here are some other highlights from the survey.

a chart showing the world reputation rankings 2021 - top 10
Image: Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings

The Netherlands – six of its nine listed universities have ranked better than last year, with the remaining three retaining their positions on the table. Delft University of Technology climbs into the top 50 for 2021.

a chart showing the countries/regions represented in the Time Higher Education rankings 2021
Image: Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings

Oxford University – in the same year that it helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the University of Oxford climbs two places to third.

China – with its “breakthrough result” this year, “mainland China is the major success story in the ranking,” THE says. With seven universities in the top 100, including Peking University (15th), it also adds five new universities to the rankings this year, giving China a record 17 representatives in the table overall and making it the third most represented country for 2021.

a chart showing the world reputation rankings 2021 through the domestic/international vote shares by subject
Image: Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings

India – four universities make the grade this year, with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi appearing in the rankings for the first time, while the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay climbs two ranking bands to 126-150th and the Indian Institute of Science makes it into the top 100.

South America – Brazil is the region’s only representative in the table, but both of the country’s ranked universities improve their standing this year, with the University of São Paulo moving up nine places to 81st and the University of Campinas jumping from 175th to 151st this year.