Windows on the World of SipaKV

X, Jussieu, Harvard et les autres…

Posted on: September 16, 2005

This year again, the Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University has ranked world wide universities according to academic and research performances as measured in international awards wins (Nobel and Fields prizes), citations in articles and publications in prestigious journals.

This ranking has generated a lot of vibe and has been cited by respectable newspapers such as the New York Times. The Economist magazine cites it too, mostly to praise how well American universities are doing, to lament how badly the Europeans are failing, and how Asian universities are striving to achieve excellent education systems and are threatening to leave the Europeans in the dust.

You may agree or disagree with the Economist’s views, object to the criterias, but the ranking itself underlines how completely American universities dominate the research field .

I skimmed through the list wondering how well my university fared. Bring in the Moet and the caviar, hooray ! My very own university, where I hope not to set foot again for the longest possible time, has managed to join the top 100!
I was a little astonished though not to see many European universities among the top 20. Indeed, I’d say America shelters 85% of the top universities according to this ranking. The non-US creme de la creme are the famous U of Tokyo, Cambridge and Oxford (Isn’t it amazing that the London School of Economics is only at the 203-300 place ???). The rest of top 20 universities are American ones. The first Canadian University is the U of Toronto (24th), behind two Japanese Us.

So I thought I’d look among the top 20 European universities to see if the pride of the Republique, Napoleon’s legacies, I have named the Grandes Ecoles have made it, and if my own alma mater made the list. Nada. Zilch. Nope. My Grande Ecole did not make it. Not even the very elite Ecole Polytechnique is a top 100 according to this list(it’s 203-300th on the list), even though it hosts many of the brightest in its graduate and research labs (well, maybe it’s not in the list because it’s relatively small in size compared to the other prestigious universities? or because its labs are co-hosted with bigger universities?)!
Ecole Normale Sup is at the 93rd place! The renowned IIT of India is only at the 301-400th place !

And so having missed the Grandes Ecoles, I looked for a French presence.

I had to wait until the rank of 46th to find one.
At the 46th place, the U of Jussieu tries to salvage French pride. I got over my dismay and looked for more : Paris XI(61st), Strasbourg (92nd). . . A bit disappointing…

South Africa tops African universities, no surprise there. Indeed the only African universities on the list are South African ones.

For more on rankings :,,2-1343281,00.html (definitely a UK bias, there…) (the Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranking).
Le Monde has an article about the list in today’s edition.


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