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France lags behind, US tops world universities ranking

AFP archive picture | French university alumni are still high earners

US universities ruled the top 10 spots in a global ranking conducted by a Chinese research centre with Harvard taking the crown for the 13th year, while French establishments bottomed out.


The top 10 universities were virtually unchanged from last year’s rankings with Stanford and MIT again coming in second and third, according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities released by a centre under Shanghai Jiaotong University

The University of California at Berkeley, Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology remained in the same places -- ranking fourth, sixth and seventh

If higher education excellence can be graded according to the success of students, one study by “crowdsourced” pay website found that French institutions produced the best-paid performers, with Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Centrale de Paris in the top three.  The study compared earnings of financial services workers in the City of London and ranked them according to the universities from which they graduated.


Columbia University and University of Chicago came in at eighth and ninth.

University of Cambridge and University of Oxford, the only two non-American universities in the top 10, were fifth and 10th.

‘Must not become the alpha and omega’

French establishments barely got a look-in with just three institutions in the top 100.

The capital’s Pierre and Marie Curie University came in at 36, University of Paris-Sud at 41, Ecole Normale Supérieure - Paris at 72 and the University of Strasbourg at 87.

France, however, did better when it came to rankings in mathematics, coming fifth.

Education Minister Thierry Mandon criticised the ShanghaiJiaotong University ranking system overall of being “unsuited to the French university model”.

Aiming for a higher rank in the future “must not become the alpha and omega of our educational policy”, he warned.

‘Most trustworthy’

The Center of World-Class Universities under Jiaotong University surveys 1,200 universities and picks the top 500 every year.

The Toulouse School of Economics, established in 2011 as the main economics faculty of the city’s university, featured among the ranking's top 300 for the first time. The school was founded by Jean Tirole, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2014.

Though the Chinese organiser claims the ranking to be "the most trustworthy", European officials have in the past criticised it for being biased against Europe's universities as it underemphasises the humanities and stresses sciences.

The organiser, which initially intended to benchmark the performance of Chinese universities, said the result was based on transparent methodology and third-party data.

It said the result was calculated based on several parameters, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals.

For mainland China, Shanghai Jiaotong University itself advanced four places to come in 118th and Peking University climbed to 115th and remained as the highest-ranked school in the country.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the University of Tokyo was 21st and Kyoto University, also in Japan, remained in the same place as last year to come in 26th.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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