U.S. universities continue to dominate the World Reputations Rankings.

Times Higher Education has released the World Reputation Rankings 2014. It is based on a university’s prestige as judged by leading scholars around the world. Ten thousand academics around the world have been surveyed. PHIL BATY, Editor Times Higher Education Rankings, speaks to BINCY MATHEW about the rankings.

Why do U.S. universities continue to dominate the rankings? How has Harvard University managed to retain the top spot?

There are a lot of factors that have allowed the U.S. universities to dominate the rankings so dramatically. The first aspect is money. These universities have extremely generous resources. Harvard has a huge endowment. It has a very large stream of private income and is able to win competitive funding. Students pay high tuition fees. So it is an exceptionally rich university. It also has more than a century of tradition and a huge pedigree. It continues to attract the brightest and best talent — top academics and students. This requires money and resources, but it also requires reputation for outstanding education and research.

How did South Korea rise in the ranking from number 41 last year to number 26 this year?

Seoul National University has been the national flagship in South Korea for some time now. It was given special independent status, which was specially designed to allow it to compete on a global stage.

It has embarked on a specific programme of internationalisation — it’s forging partnerships with leading universities and drawing in faculty and students from around the world. One aspect that allows universities to thrive in a competitive global market is freedom from central bureaucratic control, to have flexibility, to be agile, to respond better to changing situations globally.

Why have Indian universities not made it to the list?

The challenge in India is that though the IITs are renowned for quality teaching, they tend to be less well established in research. Publishing world class research in leading journals is a powerful way of demonstrating excellence to the world. Moreover, this survey is based more heavily on research excellence than teaching.

Also, in India, the focus is on expanding capacity — coping with the huge increase in student numbers. But there has been a slight lowering of quality as a result. The next challenge is to make sure the best of the universities here are able to compete with the best institutions in the world.

Germany ranks third in the list for having the maximum number of institutes. Your comments.

Germany has made a conscious policy decision in the last decade to concentrate more of its resources on a smaller number of universities to allow them to compete globally under a programme known as excellence initiative. This has allowed universities to raise their global profile and compete more aggressively on a global stage.

Germany is also competing for international students. It is teaching in English, and trying to add English language degrees to try and attract Asian students. It is internationalising campuses and advertising more on a global scale.

How does Singapore fare ?

Singapore has a powerful formula for excellence in higher education. There is a strong commitment from the government to provide universities with the funding they need so that they can be among the world’s best. The government recognises that it does not have many natural resources. The economy depends on new knowledge creation and innovation. It relies on its "brains" and its "people", so it needs to invest in universities. Singapore is truly international in outlook. It is a diverse country with a large number of nationalities, a hub for international talent with outstanding facilities for academics. It is able to attract a large number of foreign academics to come and work in Singapore and provide their expertise.

There have been some fluctuations in the rankings with respect to U.K. universities. What’s the picture like?

The U.K. has a superb position in the rankings, but excellence is concentrated in London and the South-East area. The U.K. has lost powerful institutions like Leeds, Bristol, and Sheffield in the rankings over the years. Some of the small specialist universities such as London Business School and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are in the top 100. You would imagine universities having a bigger footprint with better faculty and students in a wider range of activities to do well as they have larger number of interactions. But we found that smaller universities, that excelled in a concentrated area, have made it to the list.

One aspect that allows universities to thrive in a competitive global market is freedom from central bureaucratic control

World Reputation

Ranking 2014

1. Harvard Univerisity

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3. Stanford University

4. University of Cambridge

5. University of Oxford

6. University of California, Berkeley

7. Princeton University

8. Yale University

9. California Institute of Technology

10. University of California, Los Angeles

www.timeshigher education.co.uk/world-university-rankings/