London, United Kingdom – The University of Oxford has just been deemed the best university in the world, according to the new World University Rankings, released annually by Times Higher Education.

Oxford snatched the first place from the US California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, that for the past half decade had a hold of the prize. This is the first time a non-American university has been ranked first in the list’s thirteen-year period.  Oxford was founded in 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

This year’s list also shows Asian universities have become stronger, especially in Hong Kong and China. Image Credit: Oxford Admissions

The 2016 World University Rankings

The first spots were a fierce competition between the US and the UK. Stanford University, another American institution, grabbed the third place, followed by the University of Cambridge, a British institution also founded in the middle ages.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (better known as MIT) was fifth in the ranking, followed by Harvard and Princeton. At the ninth spot comes the first institution that is not American nor British, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. And finally, University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago tied up at tenth place.

The World University Rankings focus mostly on the research performed annually by the institutions and the research funding given to university’s scholars. They also interview up to twenty-thousand leading researchers who help them to identify the best institutions.

“The single biggest individual indicator is research impact. We’re looking at 56 million citations, 11.9 million research publications” has stated Phil Baty, editor of rankings at Times Higher Education.

The ranking is also based on global scholarships and does not take into account measures like post-graduation salary, test scores, and acceptance rates. Oxford became the first university after it had a record research funding of £522.9 million in the 2014-2015 academic year, thanks to external funders.

Since 2008, China has invested around thirty-three billion dollars in their institutions, which is why there are now four Chinese universities in the top 200. For example, Peking University ranked 29, while New York University was 32.

Additionally, the Chinese are trying to bring back Chinese and Chinese-American researchers that are currently working overseas. All this shows in the rankings. China’s Tsinghua University (No. 35),  The University of Hong Kong (No. 43) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (No. 49) were all placed above Ivy League school Brown University that ranked 51.

Baty stated this is going to be “the year” that China finally surpasses the United States on research. Currently, a new government public policy wants to make six Chinese universities enter the world’s top 15 in fifteen years.

“Industry, charities, health organizations and many other funders are all keen to invest in Oxford research,” claimed Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of Oxford. That is also the reason Asian universities have gone up so fast in the ranking.

Image Credit: Business Insider

US schools are still fighting hard

Nonetheless, one-third of the top 200 ranking is composed of American universities, while British institutions comprise about sixteen percent and Germany goes third with eleven percent.

This means that the US is still leading the lists. Newcomers into the top 200 rank include the Northeastern University in Boston, in the 182 place, and the University of Illinois at Chicago ranked 200.

Sources: Wall Street Journal