Ruth’s Rankings News Update August 2019: new rankings and updates to old rankings

By Ruth A. Pagell*

  • What is the significance of Ton Duc Thang University breaking into the ARWU ranks?
  • What Asia-Pac city did students select as best?
  • Does the university having the top THE World rank also rank tops in reputation?

(19 August 2019) This new format replaces News Flashes. The annual updates to rankings include little change at the top and not much to write about.  We cannot ignore them, and they are of interest to those who want to find out how their institutions have changed.  We have been ignoring information that update other Ruth’s Rankings articles.

In this update, we analyze ARWU’s (Academic Rankings of World Universities, from the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy) annual world and subject rankings for changes or surprises. We take our first look at QS World Best Cities for students and a complementary ranking of best countries for talent from the OECD.  We take a brief look at THE’s 2019 Reputation rankings, which is a lead-up to their 2020 world rankings which are coming soon, and we report on a legal development regarding predatory publishing.


Academic Ranking of World Universities 2019, updating  News Flash August 2018

ARWU released its 2019 rankings in mid-August, along with backup information that shows the scores for all 1,000 institutions as shown in Figure1.

FIGURE 1:  PDF from backup information (pg. 6)

ARWU ranked 500 universities from 2003 through 2016. In 2017 300 more were added and in 2018 the number reached 1,000. Mainland China added 74 universities in the past three years. The U.S. continues to lead with 137 in the top 500 and 206 overall.  Mainland China is second with 58 in the top 500 and 132 overall. See ARWU 2019 statistics.

It is no surprise that Harvard University is number one. It has been every year since the rankings’ first release in 2003.  Stanford has been second in 15 of those years.18 of the top 20 in 2003 are still in the top 20. The biggest surprise is a Vietnamese university joining the rankings, Ton Duc Thang University coming in at 901-1,000.

The University of Tokyo, ranked at 25, is tops in Asia-Pac. The top 100 includes nine Asian and seven Australian universities. Five Asian and six Australian universities were in the top 100 in 2003. No Chinese university was in the top 200 in 2003. Osaka University is the biggest loser, dropping from third in Asia to the 19-36 tier in 2019. See Table 1 (in pdf) for world rankings and Table 2 (in pdf) for top Asia-Pac universities.

Since there is little movement at the top, I decided to look at the middle. Table 3 (in pdf) is a snapshot of universities ranked 401-500 in the 2019 rankings. In this sample, European universities that have been ranked for years are going down, while the Chinese universities are rising.

ARWU released 2019 academic subject rankings at the end of June. It features the same 54 subjects as last year.  Every ranker has its country bias. In the case of ARWU it is that 40% of the subject categories are in their definition of “Engineering”, which differs from their source Web of Science. A Chinese university is either first in the world or first in Asia for 21 of the 22 engineering categories. The U.S. leads overall with 35 top universities. See Table 4 (in pdf) subject rankings, adapted from the press release.

Things to remember about ARWU:

  • All data are from third parties with none coming from the universities.
  • It uses Clarivate Analytics data from Science and Social Science Indexes and Incites.
  • 90% of the metrics are size dependent, 40% based on number of articles.
  • In 2003, the US published 5.5 times more articles than China. In 2017, the US published 1.1 times more.


QS World Best Cities for Students (120 ranked)

125 cities with populations greater than 250,000 and at least two universities in the most recent QS world rankings were eligible for inclusion and 120 are in the rankings.

London tops the list followed by Tokyo, Melbourne, Munich and Berlin.  See Table 5 (in pdf) for the top 10 in the world and in Asia Pac. Selected rankings from the indicators listed below are also in Table 5.

The methodology described below introduces new indicators and new surveys of cities and countries. It also lists the top city in world and Asia-Pac region.

  • University Rankings, based on the QS rankings of the universities in the city (London, Seoul)
  • Student Mix, including a new to me country ranking, the Social Progress Index (Melbourne)
  • Desirability, with a variety of indicators including data from EIU “Liveability Index” (register for overview), Globalization and World Cities Index (GaWC) and safety data from Numbeo, based on a survey and EIU Safe Cities, based on data. (Tokyo)
  • Employer Activity with data from the annual QS Employer survey (Tokyo)
  • Affordability, using the Big Mac index and Mercer Cost of Living rankings, which measures the cost of living abroad for an expat. Note that students’ costs will be lower [Author’s note: I had $2.00 lunches in Singapore, drank local coffee and travelled by public transportation] (Budapest, Kuala Lumpur)
  • Student View (from student survey) (Munich, Melbourne)

If you use this ranking for more than curiosity you should look at the rankings by indicator, to see what is most important to you.

This ranking is UK centric. There are the same number of UK cities as US cities and only nine states and Washington DC are represented.  If this is an example of using Artificial Intelligence to determine metropolitan areas, the University of Delaware, located in Newark Delaware over 200 miles away, is considered part of NYC. [Newark NJ is part of the NY metropolitan area].


OECD Talent Attractiveness Indicators by Country 2019

The OECD released a new index on countries’ ability to attract talent from abroad. The three talent groups are Highly Educated Workers (Masters level and above), Foreign Entrepreneurs and University Students. Indicators are quality of opportunities, income and tax, future prospects, family environment, skills environment, inclusiveness and quality of life.

The website is interactive and allows for selecting a talent group and a level of interest for each indicator. In the example below, from OECD Talent Attractiveness, a university student ranked all of the indicators equally.  Switzerland is first and Australia is fifth.  If the parameter changed to Highly Educated Worker, Australia would be first and Switzerland second. Korea is the only Asian country included on the OECD list.  Australia, Germany and Canada, countries with two cities in QS top 10, are top 10 counties in this ranking.

EXAMPLE 1:  Use of interactive Talent Attractiveness ranking based on University students with everything at equal importance

OECD Talent Attractiveness – Rank your priorities and see how countries compare, OECD, May 2019 retrieved at

A background working paper, Measuring and accessing talent attractiveness in OECD countries (Tuccio, 2019), is available.


Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings 2019:  Updating Ruth’s Rankings 27 and Newsflash 2018-3

100 universities are ranked.  The top 50 universities receive individual ranks and reputation scores. The bottom 50 are ranked in tiers of ten and have no scores. The top ten universities in the world remain the same and in the same order as last year. Eight of the top ten in reputation also rank in the top ten in the world.  The reputation survey results contribute 15% to the teaching indicator and 18% to the research indicator in the World Rankings and the scores are not visible. 18 countries are represented. Only 13 countries with universities in the top 50, have reputation scores. 54% of the top 50 are from the U.S. and over 50% of the top 100 are from the U.S. and U.K.

Six Asia-Pac universities rank higher in reputation than their world ranks. The Hong Kong universities, HKUST and Chinese U dropped twenty places in reputation. Japan’s Tohoku University, ranked between 251-and 300 in the world, makes the top 12 in Asia-Pac in reputation.  See Table 6.


Predatory Publishers:  Updating Ruth’s Rankings 37 Part 1 and Part 2

I became interested in predatory publications when I revisited journal quality metrics. The issue of predatory publishers moved into public view when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined OMICS, one of the largest publishers of predatory publications, over $50 million for its practices.  Click here for an interview with Stewart Manley which describes the case with some key takeaways for universities.



Tuccio, Michelle (29 May 2019).  Measuring and assessing talent attractiveness in OECD countries. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No.229, accessed at


*Ruth A. Pagell is emeritus faculty librarian at Emory University.  After working at Emory, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University and then adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii.  She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS –