Western, Canada continue run among global elite

Canadian universities remained relatively stable in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University rankings, released Tuesday, as experts called “investment in higher education” the key differentiating factor between institutions on the rise (South Korea, Russia, the United States and China) and decline (Western and Southern Europe, South Africa and Latin America).

Western found itself at No. 198 in the 2016-17 rankings of the Top 200 universities in the world. That number was down slightly from No. 196 in 2015-16. On the list, Western was bookended by the University of Calgary and Stockholm University (tied at No. 196) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (No. 199).

Western has steadily ranked in the Top 200, including No. 191 in 2014-15, No. 199 in 2013-14, No. 173 in 2012-13 and No. 157 in 2011-12.

In Canada, the ordering of universities stayed the same for 2016-17, with the lone exception being Calgary’s leapfrog into the Top 200 from just outside it last year.

McGill University was again the highest ranking Canadian institution at No. 30, down from No. 24 last year. The remaining Top 200 included the University of Toronto (No. 32, up from No. 34), University of British Columbia (No. 45, up from No. 50), University of Alberta (No. 94, up from 96), University of Montreal (No. 126, down from No. 115), McMaster University (No. 149), University of Waterloo (No. 152), Calgary (No. 196, up from No. 204) and Western (No. 198).

“This year’s rankings imply that levels of investment are determining who progresses and who regresses,” said Ben Sowter, QS Head of Research. “Institutions in countries that provide high levels of targeted funding, whether from endowments or from the public purse, are rising. On the other hand, some Western European nations making or proposing cuts to public research spending are losing ground to their U.S. and Asian counterparts.”

The U.K. drew particular attention this year due to what experts attributed to “the potential impact of Brexit on the country’s higher education sector.”

Of the 48 U.K. institutions in the Top 400, 38 dropped down the rankings this year. Nevertheless, despite the narrative, four U.K. universities remain in the Top 10 in the world: Cambridge University (No. 4), Oxford University (No. 6), University College London (No. 7) and Imperial College London (No. 9).

Overall, the ranking lightly shuffled the Top 50 to keep things interesting. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) again topped the list, just ahead of Stanford University. Harvard University, Cambridge and California Institute of Technology rounded out the Top 5.

U.S. and U.K. universities continued to dominate the top tier of the rankings, occupying 16 of the Top 20 places.

The QS World University Rankings are based on four categories: research, teaching, employability and internationalization. The methodology consists of six indicators: Academic Reputation (40 per cent), Employer Reputation (10 per cent), Faculty-Student Ratio (20 per cent), Citations Per Faculty (20 per cent), International Students (5 per cent) and International Faculty (5 per cent).

Western’s highest marks came in the categories of International Faculty and Citations Per Faculty; its lowest marks came in the categories of Academic Reputation and International Students.