TU Delft drops down the Times Higher Education ranking

In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020, TU Delft drops by nine places from last year to a shared position of 67.

‘A disappointment’ is what the Executive Board Chair Tim van der Hagen calls TU Delft’s new position. (image: THE)

Since 2014, TU Delft’s position has swung between 58 and 71. After going up in the last two years, TU Delft has now dropped to its 2016 place. “A disappointment,” says Executive Board Chair Tim van der Hagen. “Rankings always show fluctuations and we should still be proud that we are in such a high position among the world’s top universities,” he said in a press release. “But we are seeing some of the universities in the Netherlands drop and the question that then arises is if this is related to the reduced financing of university education. University rankings show where you stand compared to each other. Elsewhere in the world, much is invested in higher education and research.”

The University of Twente was not put in a good light by the ranking of the British Times Higher Education (THE) magazine. The University dropped out of the top 200. This is a worrying development, says the compiler of the list, Phil Baty. The University of Twente has lost its place in the world’s top ranked universities. This puts 11 Dutch universities in the top 200 of the annual World University Rankings, of which seven are in the top 100. For the second year in a row, a Dutch academic institution has dropped out of the upper reaches of the ranking.

Wageningen University is the new number one of the Netherlands. The University overtakes TU Delft to take the lead. The Free University of Amsterdam makes the biggest jump up, from 166 to 138. TU Eindhoven loses most ground and drops from 167 to 186.

The ranking looks at the reputation of universities, the teaching staff:student ratio, the number of international students and teaching staff, the collaboration with industry, and the impact of scientific research. Dutch universities usually score well on citation impact, but less well on their educational frameworks.. Another factor is that industry is making smaller contributions to research in the Netherlands.

“The Netherlands’ performance is still very impressive, but the current developments are very worrying,” says the list compiler, Phil Baty. He believes that the Netherlands has serious hurdles to overcome, particularly in terms of access for international students and academics.

Major powers
The rise of Asian universities continues unabated. The number of educational institutions in the top 200 has risen from two to 24. Baty emphasises, however, that the ‘Anglo-Saxon powers’ will not give up their positions at the top easily. The Oxford University in the United Kingdom is ranked number one for the fourth consecutive year and the United States dominates the ranking with 60 institutions in the top 200, of which 14 are in the top 20.

Heavy international competition is pushing many European universities down the list. “Economic instability and increasing isolationist political leanings are threatening to undermine much of the excellent work of European universities,” says Baty. If Europe wants to continue performing well, it will have to continue attracting leading academics with investments in research, and hospitable environments for ‘people from all sections of society’.

Leading rankings
The THE Ranking, along with the Shanghai ranking and the QS ranking, is among the most prestigious rankings in the world. Each ranking is compiled using different criteria and each has its advantages and limitations. But high places in these leading rankings are important for attracting international top talent. University rankings are frequently used by international students and scientists who wish to study or work abroad. According to Van der Hagen, “To do research and teach at a high level, we need to continue to attract talent nationally and internationally. TU Delft’s position remains strong, but if this is a signal, we should be concerned.”

As an aside, doubts can be cast on this and similar rankings. For example, researchers and universities adopt all sorts of tricks to raise their scores, and academic performance does not, or barely, counts.


HOP, Melanie Zierse / Delta, Tomas van Dijk

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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