Latest World Reputation Rankings reveal that younger universities are on the rise
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The Times Higher Education (THE) World Reputation Rankings 2019 launched this week. Based on results from the “world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey”, more than 11,000 scholars from across the globe were invited to name 15 universities they believe to be the best for research and teaching in their field.

According to THE, “The Academic Reputation Survey, available in 16 languages, uses United Nations data as a guide to ensure that the response coverage is as representative of world scholarship as possible. It is also evenly spread across academic disciplines.”

The survey found that the top-ranked universities in the world are consistent in holding the strongest reputations. Here are the top five:

No.1 – Harvard University (World rank: No. 6)

No.2 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (World Rank: No.4)

No.3 – Stanford University (World Rank: No. 3)

No.4 – University of Cambridge (World Rank: No.2)

No. 5 – University of Oxford (World Rank: No.1)

But an interesting trend was observed from the results; a significant percent of the  younger scholars surveyed held younger universities higher in regard, compared to more established universities like Harvard and Oxford.

These younger universities typically focus more on industry links and  preparing students for the future worlds of work. Research activities at these universities are focused more on innovation, technology, sustainability and tackling global issues.

“Respondents aged under 26 were more than twice as likely to vote for institutions characterised by THE as “technology challengers” (10.6 percent) than those aged over 65 (5 percent).

“These institutions – many of which are under the age of 50 – lean towards physical sciences and engineering and technology, tend to receive a high amount of industry income and perform less well on measures of research environment and citation impact.”

Academics who were older (above 65) were more likely to select universities that are “effective publishers” than younger respondents – meaning “those that score highly for citation impact, despite not being as strong when it comes to teaching and research environments.”

The survey findings also showed that younger academics consider more Asian universities to be reputable (6.4 percent) compared to the older group (4.4 percent)

These Asian universities are established institutions located primarily on Japan, India and China, where industry links are a major focus.

Rupert Younger, Founder and Director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Corporate Reputation, told THE that “the findings could relate to the fact that younger academics are more likely to be working with less established institutions.

“But I suspect also that many of the younger scholars are looking to break new ground on cross-cultural studies, and on global issues which are perhaps better explained through a wider set of analytical lenses [gained from collaboration with] more innovative and younger institutions in emerging economies.”

Young universities are generally those considered to be less than 50 years of age. In the higher education landscape, the older the university, the more “elite” or “established” it is, putting younger universities at a disadvantage.

However, rankings and surveys in recent years have shown that many of these universities, such as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST),École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are capable of rising fast, making waves with their cutting-edge research and innovative multidisciplinary approaches.

Many have pointed out that these universities are possibly preparing students for a future fueled by technology and innovation better than the “elite old stars”.

In a time where university reputation matters more than ever due to global competitiveness and strong brand identities, older universities would be wise to take note of the trends influencing the youth today when it comes to choosing where and what to study.

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