According to vice-chancellor and president of Plymouth University Wendy Purcell, Times Higher Education (THE) have hailed the arrival of the ‘modern vintage’ with their spin-off ranking, the THE 100 Under 50. As the name suggests, the canonical British weekly education magazine takes an innovative approach to identifying the leading global institutions that were either founded or achieved degree-awarding powers in the last fifty years.  By recalibrating their existing THE World University Rankings, THE addresses the inequalities of prestige and prominence in favor of a sense of dynamism and proactivity in addressing the needs of a particular student body. The result yields a fascinating insight into the future leaders of an ever-shifting educational elite.

THE have adapted their tried and tested approach for measuring excellence in learning transfer by adjusting the existing 13 performance indicators already in place and used to rank the world’s top institutions at the beginning of each academic year. Always awaited with bated breath, their dominant ranking now has a certified companion that will ensure the influence of the THE brand remains in place. By reducing the weighting of certain indicators relating to academic prestige and pushing up the percentage points on international outlook and published papers, amongst others the 100 Under 50 table finds a deliberate bias in measuring future potential and risk-taking rather than cemented influence and increased hegemony. Young universities, whose focus is on growth, recruitment, and expansion rather than legacy, are therefore subjected to a more objective methodology that allows the strategic vision of students and faculty to prevail.

For those around the world for whom access to the traditional educational elite is restricted, either by economic or geographic circumstances, THE’s 100 Under 50 is an indispensible tool. In this particular ranking the learning environment takes precedence over prestige. For many forward-thinking students wishing to test their mettle and push the boundaries of received knowledge, the make-or-break fearlessness of many of these youthful universities may turn out to be an attractive proposition. Reflecting a key concern to many applicants, THE aligns its teaching and learning category to gauge staff-to-student numbers as an indicator of teaching quality. As such, the Top 10 gives a startling insight into the areas in which the pursuit of academic excellence is at its most spirited.


Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech) – Republic of Korea
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – Switzerland
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) – Republic of Korea
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology – Hong Kong
Nanyang Technological University – Singapore
Maastricht University – Netherlands
University of California, Irvine – United States
Université Paris-Sud – France
Université Pierre et Marie Curie – France
Lancaster University – United Kingdom


While the top two have remained unchanged since the rankings were started in 2012, the university of York fell out of the top 100 altogether after achieving seventh place in 2013. South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore still dominate focus, while Turkey and Iran are gradually edging into prominence. For all of their finely calibrated approaches, THE has left the weighting of international outlook unchanged, and its hard not to see why. The essence of the 100 Under 50 is to address the imbalance triggered by legacy and historic hegemony, and in so doing painting a picture of fifty years of growth, globalization, and radical thought.