Powered by data from Thomson Reuters, the ranking looks to the future by examining a new breed of global universities – those that have managed to join the world elite in a matter of decades rather than centuries, and those with the potential to become the next generation’s Harvard or Oxford.
The list also shows which nations could challenge the US and UK as future higher education powerhouses.
The THE 100 Under 50 2014 uses the same list of 13 performance indicators that underpin the THE World University Rankings, but employs a recalibrated methodology to better capture the characteristics of young institutions.
For the third year in a row, the ranking is headed by South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech), while its national rival, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), holds on to the third spot it gained last year.
Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne retains second position.
East Asia’s dominance at the top of the table increases this year. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology stays in fourth, while Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University moves up to fifth from eighth.
The US’ top-ranked institution, the University of California, Irvine, falls to seventh.
The top 10 includes representatives from eight countries. The Netherlands’ Maastricht University holds on to sixth; France’s Université Paris-Sud advances to eighth spot(up from 10th), while Université Pierre et Marie Curie stays in ninth; and the final top 10 position is taken by the UK’s Lancaster University.
Unlike the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which examine institutional performance irrespective of history and heritage, the 100 Under 50 only looks at universities founded in 1964 or later are listed. This means several institutions have fallen out of the list this year because of their 1963 foundation date, including the University of York (seventh last year), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (12th in 2013) and the University of East Anglia (16th).
The concentration of “plate-glass universities” established in the UK in the early 1960s has led to a steep decline in the country’s representation on the 100 Under 50 this year. It now has 14 institutions, compared with 18 last year and 20 in 2012. The highest placed is Lancaster University, which climbs from 14th to 10th, followed by the University of Warwick (up one place to 12th), the University of Essex (22nd from joint 29th), Brunel University (29th, up from 44th) and the University of Bath (static at joint 34th).
Of the UK’s 14 representatives, only two were founded after the Swinging Sixties – both former polytechnics that gained university status under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Plymouth University moves up to joint 42nd from joint 53rd, while the University of Hertfordshire rises 15 places to joint 60th.
Scotland’s top representative is Heriot-Watt University (52nd, up from 63rd), which has overtaken the University of Stirling (56th, rising from joint 61st). The University of Strathclyde (up one place to 78th) is the country’s only other top 100 institution.
In terms of national strength, Australia now matches the UK, with 14 representatives in the table. Its top-ranked institution is the University of Newcastle, which jumps 12 places to 28th, overtaking in the process the Queensland University of Technology, which slips from joint 26th to joint 31st.
While it dominates the traditional university rankings, the US has only eight institutions in the 100 Under 50 – the same number as last year. The University of California, Irvine is best placed, although it has slipped from fifth in 2013 to seventh this year. UC Santa Cruz is static in 11th.
Canada has five institutions on the list, up from four last year: the University of Calgary (up four places to joint 19th) and Simon Fraser University (up two places to 24th) lead the pack.
Spain is a stand-out performer with seven institutions, up from six last year. This is in stark contrast to its record in the traditional World University Rankings, where it has no top 100 institutions.
The Republic of Ireland bolsters its standing in the table with a new representative, taking its total to three. The National University of Ireland, Maynooth rises from 74th place to joint 67th, while Dublin City University slips from joint 84th to joint 92nd. Ireland’s entrant, the Dublin Institute of Technology, founded in 1992, is 94th.
The top Asian nation in terms of numbers is Taiwan, which has four representatives (down from five), led by the National Sun Yat-Sen University in 40th.