By Ruth A Pagell*
(30 Oct 2023) Updated rankings are coming out faster than I can read my emails. This article reviews THE’s 2024 World rankings with new metrics. Ruth’s Rankings’ target audience is Asia/Pac. The news coming out of Asia consistently reports that China is closing the gap with the US. It is time to see what is happening in other parts of the world. I begin by featuring THE’s new Sub-Saharan Africa rankings. My rankings article after this one will look at other regional rankings, highlighting QS’ new European rankings with a time out to review Impact of Global University Ranking Systems on Developing Countries (Onyancha & Tella).
THE WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS 2024
THE’s 2024 World Rankings changed vocabulary from Pillars to Research Areas and modified its indicators and weightings. My interest in the 2024 release is the impact of the new methodology on rankings. The most notable methodology change is renaming “Citations” with a weighting of 30% and no individual indicators into “Research Quality”, also with a weighting of 30% and four separate indicators. Using the old indicators, the top ten universities for Citations came from Iran, Turkey, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Australia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Tanzania. The overall rankings for these universities ranged from 251-300 to 501-600. With the new Research Quality metrics, the median decline in world rankings for these universities is 300 places. Nine of the top ten of the 2024 Research Quality universities are in the world’s top 25 universities and the lowest is 251-300.
Industry added Patents as a second indicator. Thomas-Alexander highlighted Ireland’s improvement in the Industry ranking from the 400s to the 200s.
EXAMPLE 1: Impact of change in Industry Scores on World rankings for Ireland
|All nine Irish universities ranked higher in Industry in 2024 than 2023. Six kept the same position in the World in 2024. Overall, the world ranking for the 2023 top ten in Industry ranged from 30 to 601-800 and represented seven countries. They have been replaced in 2024 by universities from four countries with world rankings from seven to 193. This has not had a negative impact on the world rankings for the 2023 top ten the way Research Quality impacted the 2023 world top ten for Research.|
The US leads with the most universities at 175, four fewer than in 2023. 13 US universities are in the world’s top 20 in 2024 one more than in 2023. The UK is next with 163 universities in both years, and 11 in the top 100 in 2024 and 10 in 2023. China has 95 universities up from 86. Seven are in the top 100 and they all improved their rankings from 2023. The world’s top ten are the same as nine of the top ten Asian universities. The top five Australian universities dropped as did many other Australian universities (Ross). Hong Kong universities also dropped, although the top five remain in the world’s top 100. See Appendix A for the 2023 and 2024 methodologies and top 10 World and Asian rankings.
I personally have not had much experience with Sub-Saharan Africa and its education and university landscape. When I was working at the University of Pennsylvania, I helped a PhD student from Ghana with his English. I had a staff member who was from South Africa, and I did go to IFLA when it was in Durban. I welcomed this ranking is an opportunity to learn more about a region that is new to us. THE’s new ranking features a different set of metrics designed for Sub-Saharan Africa. Many ranked universities will be unfamiliar to us while a few familiar names are missing from the new rankings. Click here for the World Bank list of Sub-Saharan African countries.
Over the past few months, Africa has been in the spotlight. International organizations are focusing on Africa. UNESCO states that “The African Renaissance is underway.” The United Nations Academic Impact is planning an Academic Conference on Africa for December 2023. Click here for more about the conference.
The African Union (AU), launched in 2002, represents all countries of the African continent. The Union joined the G20 with full membership in 2023. It has an equivalent status to the EU (Munyati). South Africa is the only African country that is an individual member of the G20.
South Africa is also a member of BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, founded as an alternative to Western powers. New members joined the BRICS in 2023, including Ethiopia. Other Sub-Saharan countries are interested in joining (Achaya). The BRICS ministers want to create their own global rankings. According to Jelena Brankovic, a well-known researcher in global rankings, “Global university rankings have privileged wealthier and better-resourced universities.” She is skeptical that developing a new ranking system is the answer to the problem(Packer).
Two education associations include the 56 year old Association of African Universities (AAU) with a membership of over 400 universities. The newer African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) is collaborating with the Guide of European Research Universities to create three clusters of research excellence (CORE). (Thompson & Sawahel) There are currently 20 Sub-Saharan members.
Sub-Saharan Africa Rankings
In 2014, THE introduced the ranking on BRICS and Emerging Economies. By 2022, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria joined South Africa. A limited number of Sub-Saharan universities appear in THE’s World Rankings and Impact rankings. In April 2023, Phil Baty, THE’s Chief Global Affairs Officer, introduced the methodology for the new Sub-Saharan Africa rankings.
The new ranking focuses on undergraduate education. To create the new methodology, THE included regional university leaders, regional organizations, and the Ashesi University in Ghana, with support from the Mastercard Foundation. The rankings use a set of pillars and metrics that differ from other THE rankings. Data come from the universities, a student survey, and Elsevier.
The requirement for inclusion is to teach undergraduate students including small vocational schools. The 88 institutions that are ranked and received scores for all metrics submitted 50 or more student surveys. An additional 33 have scores for research areas, but no overall rank. THE provides a list of universities that submitted their data but did not qualify for inclusion. Two-thirds are public institutions.
There are five pillars, each worth 20 percent. Most are unique to this ranking.
See Appendix B for full methodology
Two of the region’s top 10 universities in other rankings, the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University did not participate. South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal, top 10 in World rankings and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology ranked first in THE’s SDG4 2023 Impact rankings do not have overall scores. All of these are in the top of SciVal’s bibliometrics in October 2023.
Table 57. 1: Top Ten Sub-Saharan Universities in three THE Rankings
See Appendix B on Sub-Saharan rankings. It includes Sub-Saharan universities in other rankings and identifies the top performers in the region.
Times Higher Education has led other ranking organizations in creating new rankings for current topics. A ranking on Sub-Saharan universities is timely and controversial. Even universities that participated have questioned its value (Pretorius). While THE is focusing on teaching, Dr. Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary -General of ARUA, sees a need to create a culture of research in African universities (Usher). For me to get a balanced picture of top universities, I looked at the rankings from other sources, as shown in Appendix B. If for no other reason, this ranking is important for highlighting Sub-Saharan Africa and the need to encourage better resources for teaching and for research.
Achaya, B. (21 AU 2023). Which countries want to join the BRICS and why. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/what-is-brics-who-are-its-members-2023-08-21/
Baty, P. (17 Apr 2023). Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings: a new framework. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/sub-saharan-africa-university-rankings-new-framework
Munyati, C. (14 Sep 2023). The African Union has been made a permanent member of the G20 – what does it mean for the continent? https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/09/african-union-g20-world-leaders/
Onyancha, O.B. & Tella, A. (2023). Impact of Global University Rankings Systems on Developing Countries. https://www.igi-global.com/book/impact-global-university-ranking-systems/312495
Packer, H. (5 Sep 2023). BRICS to launch new university ranking system. The PIE News. https://thepienews.com/news/brics-university-rankings-system/
Pretorius C., Kigotho W, Nisu E, & Nakkazi, E. (22 Jun 2023) Questions of new rankings for Sub-Saharan universities. UWN. https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20230621193949553
Ross, J. (27 Sep 2023). Australian elite falters UNW. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/world-university-rankings-2024-australian-elite-falters
Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings 2023: Methodology (11 Apr 2023). https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/sub-saharan-africa-university-rankings-2023-methodology-0
THE Reporters (3 April 2023). THE launches new Africa-focused ranking partnership. Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/launches-new-africa-focused-ranking-partnership
Thompson, D. & Sawahel, W. (29 Sep 2023). Africa-Europe clusters of research excellence total 20. UWN. https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20230929112302994#:~:text=Three%20new%20Africa%2DEurope%20Clusters,bringing%20the%20total%20to%2020.
Thomas-Alexander, T. (27 Sep 2023). Trends in industry. UNW. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/world-university-rankings-2024-trends-industry
UNESCO (no date) Priority Africa. retrieved 20/9/2023. https://www.unesco.org/en/africa
United Nations Academic Impact (11 Oct 2023). Academic Conference on Africa. https://mailchi.mp/un/weekly-newsletter-796432?e=70545decdd
Usher, A. (12 Oct 2023). African Research Universities Alliance. https://higheredstrategy.com/african-research-universities-alliance-arua/
A list of Ruth’s Rankings and News Updates is here.
*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 – https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674