Times Higher Education (THE) has ranked the world’s best universities over 400 years old to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.

Overall, the UK tops the list, with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh claiming the top three spots, respectively. The UK was joint leader with Germany in terms of national representatives, since both countries boast six universities featured in the top 25 league table.

In 19th position, South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University was the only institution outside of Europe to make the top 25.

Overall, 11 different countries are featured on the table, but despite being home to the world’s oldest university, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088, Italy was one country that did not make the grade.

The history of the University of Oxford can be traced back to 1096, making it the oldest institution currently featured on the list, while the Netherlands’ University of Groningen, ranked in 8th position, is the youngest on the list, its history beginning in 1614.

Duncan Ross, data and analytics director at THE, says: “Despite all the evidence that points to Shakespeare’s being from the English midlands, the conspiracy theories around who he might have been refuse to die away. So we thought it would be fun to look at the universities that a more educated Shakespeare might have attended.

“Could Shakespeare really have been educated in Korea? Is Macbeth really a dramatization of the founding of the Joseon dynasty? Or is it about Scotland after all?”

The ranking was assembled using data from the THE World University Rankings 2015-16, excluding all institutions less than 400 years old. The league table is made up of the 25 highest scoring institutions.

Here are the top 10:

1. The University of Oxford, UK

Oxford University ranks second in the world in the 2015-16 World University Rankings. Founded in 1096, the University boasts a long history of academic excellence, with gifted men and women from all corners of the globe opting for an Oxford education. Among them are 26 British Prime Ministers, at least 30 international leaders, 50 Nobel Prize winners and 120 Olympic medal winners

2. The University of Cambridge, UK


Senate House #festivaloflight #universityofcambridge #cambridge

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Cambridge University ranks fourth in the world in THE’s most recent World University Rankings. The University was established in 1209, and is recognised across the globe as Oxford’s main competitor. The students who flocked to Cambridge in Medieval times would have studied what is now known as a ‘foundation course’ in arts- grammar, logic and rhetoric- followed later on by arithmetic, music, geometry and astrology.

3. The University of Edinburgh, UK

Edinburgh ranked 24th overall in THE’s World University Rankings. Founded in 1583, the university has educated some truly influential figures, including: James Miranda Barry – pioneering British Army Surgeon and the university’s first female graduate; Robert Louis Stevenson– poet and author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – author of the Sherlock Holmes series.

4. LMU Munich, Germany

LMU Munich ranks 29th overall in the 2015-16 THE World University Rankings. The School was established in 1472, attracting inspired scholars and talented students from all over the world. The institution was founded by Duke Ludwig IX the Wealthy of Bavaria-Landshut, beginning its legacy as Ingolstadt’s first university until it was relocated in 1800.

5. KU Leuven, Belgium


8:00 am. #winter #leuven #belgium #kuleuven #sunrise

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KU Leuven ranks 35th overall in the most recent THE World University Rankings. The University was founded at the centre of the historic town of Leuven in 1425, making it Belgium’s first university. After closing down in 1797 during the Napoleonic period, the university was ‘re-founded’ as a Catholic institution in 1834.

6. Heidelberg University, Germany

This institution ranks 37th in the 2015-16 THE World University Rankings. Established in 1386, it is the oldest university in contemporary Germany and the fifth oldest in Central Europe. It was the third university to be founded in the Holy Roman Empire, and has since earned a reputation for being a centre of democratic thinking.

7. Leiden University, Netherlands


An unusual sunny day in leiden #pieterskerk #leiden #leidenuniversity #erasmus #sunny

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Leiden University ranks 67th overall in THE’s most recent World University Rankings. The institution was founded in 1575, making it the Netherlands’ oldest university. Albert Einstein was a known professor at Leiden, teaching students regularly for a few weeks per year. His first Leiden was lecture was about ‘Ether and Relativity Theory’.

8. University of Groningen, Netherlands


#groningen #chandelier #universityofgroningen

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This institution landed 74th position in the 2015-16 THE World University Rankings. The school was established in 1614 and is the Netherlands’ largest higher education institution. It is a member of the prestigious international Coimbra Group of European Universities and has educated more than 200,000 students since its inception.

9. University of Glasgow, UK

Glasgow University ranks 76th in THE’s most recent World University Rankings. Founded in 1451, the institution is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world, and one of Scotland’s four Ancient universities. Along with the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow University was part of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century.

10. University of Tübingen, Germany


#Tübingen #tubingen #germany #stuttgart #universityoftübingen #studyingermany #foreignstudents

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This institution ranks 78th in the 2015-16 THE World University Rankings. The institution was established in 1477, making it one of Germany’s oldest and most famous public research universities, noted in the fields of medicine, natural sciences and the humanities.

Click here to view the full list of THE’s top 25 universities over 400 years old.

Image via Librestock.

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