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Oxford crowned the best in the Times' World University 2024 rankings. Where else made the grade?

The University of Oxford retained the top spot in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024.
The University of Oxford retained the top spot in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By David WalshOceane Duboust
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The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2024 are out and it's China making the biggest impression rather than the West.

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The University of Oxford continues its supremacy at the top of the league table of the world's best university for an eighth year, according to the newly published 2024 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.

Other institutions from the anglosphere dominate the top 10, with familiar fixtures Harvard (4) and Cambridge (5) continuing to be represented at the top of the board.

The top five, however, have shifted slightly, with Stanford being elevated from joint third in 2023 to second in this year's rankings and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) rising from fifth place in 2023 to third.

This has come largely at the expense of Harvard slipping two places from second place in 2023, with Cambridge falling from joint third to the fifth spot.

More widely, there has been a noticeable decline in the fortunes of US and UK universities this year, as well as a further slide for European universities, while Asia's star continues to rise, particularly for higher education centres in China.

Tsinghua (12) and Peking (14) universities moved up the table, leapfrogging the likes of the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University.

To continue the trend of Asia's growing academic clout, Japan’s University of Tokyo now outperforms the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, and the London School of Economics and Political Science, after rising 10 places to 29th position.

An analysis of six years of data by THE shows that the average rank of US universities has declined from 296 in the 2019 rankings to 348 in the latest edition; the UK’s average rank has also sank but to a lesser extent, from 451 to 477.

Which European universities are the best in the world?

According to the overall scores in the THE rankings for 2024, European institutions continue to be well represented in the top 50.

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) saw the most significant change, jumping from 41th to 33rd in a year. The London School of Economics (LSE) saw the biggest decline, from 37th to 46th place, a further drop from 2022 when it was 27th on the list.

In general, most European institutions in the top 50 remained stable, either maintaining the same position or experiencing a modest drop.

Non-movers included ETH Zurich (11), Technical University of Munich (joint 30th and still its best position in the rankings since 2011), and University College London (22).

In terms of the quality of research - defined by THE as "citation impact, research strength, research excellence, and research influence" - carried out at each institution, European universities faired much better, with four in the top 10. 

The Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan, which overall ranked , was the 10th best university for research in the world.

The highest European entry was Oxford (5) with a score of 99, followed by Imperial College London (8) and UCL (9) with scores of 98.6 and 9 respectively.

Other key takeaways

While still dominated by universities in the US and UK, China is slowly creeping up the THE's rankings with Chinese institutions closer than ever to breaking into the top 10.

There are now 13 Chinese universities in the top 200, seven more than in 2020. The highest ranking this year are Tsinghua University and Peking University, both rising to sit at 12th and 14th in the list respectively.

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The rise of China's institutions has been mirrored by a decline in the fortunes of US and UK universities, with the number in the top 200 dropping by three and four respectively.

The decline shows that despite maintaining a lead over its Chinese rivals, the UK and the US' "relative power is waning," Ming Cheng, professor of higher education at the Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, told THE.

"Perhaps universities in these two countries could consider learning about the good practices from China and to appreciate different cultures and ideologies a bit more," she added.

"This trend also suggests a shift of knowledge economy power from the West to the East. It will potentially encourage more international students to study in China in the future".

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