Among Universities Created In Last 50 Years, U.S. No Longer Leads The Pack

A prestigious London-based publication has produced its annual list of the world’s best emerging universities. And, while the United States fares well in the rankings, the data suggests that Asian nations are emerging as the new hot spots for higher education.

The University of California Irvine – where President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address on June 14th, my birthday – ranks seventh in the 2014 edition of the Times Higher Education 100 Under 50. UC Irvine ranks highest of the eight American schools on the list, which uses data gathered by Thomson Reuters to determine the world’s top higher education institutions less than 50 years old. In the span of two generations – or less in some cases – these institutions have worked their way to become some of the top universities in the world.

Phil Baty, the publication’s rankings editor, said in a release obtained by Crotty on Education that while established institutions like Harvard and Oxford have been around for centuries, these younger schools have distinct advantages that have helped them make the quantum leap to elite status.

“The academy’s traditional, ancient elite should be warned,” Baty noted. “Many of the exciting young universities on this forward-looking list do not see their youth as a disadvantage in the global knowledge economy. While they may not have had centuries to accumulate wealth and cannot draw on generations of alumni and rich traditions of scholarship to drive their reputations, they are free from the burdens of history: free to be more agile, lean, flexible and risk-taking, giving them an advantage in a rapidly changing global marketplace; free to offer innovative teaching and focus their research on niche, high-impact areas.”

With eight schools on the list, the U.S. ranks third among all nations represented. The United Kingdom and Australia each boast 14 schools. Four U.S. Schools – Cal-Irvine, Cal-Santa Cruz, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Texas at Dallas – fall among the top 15 in the world.

That being said, the U.S presence on the young universities list pales in comparison to its presence on the Times’ World Reputation List, which lists the 100 most powerful collegiate brands in the world. America placed 46 institutions on that list, including the top three (Harvard, MIT, and Stanford), eight of the top 10 and 27 of the top 50. No U.S. school made both lists.

Here’s some more information to give you pause: four of the USA’s eight schools on the 100 Under 50 list — Cal-Irvine, Cal-Santa Cruz, UIC and No. 73 Florida International  – were founded in 1965. That means they graduate from this list after next year. Another, University of Maryland Baltimore County, was started in 1966.

What that means is that while the U.S. is still home to most of the world’s most prestigious institutions for higher education, other countries have invested in their existing schools, and in starting new schools, and, as a result, are able to compete quickly with our old brick-and-mortar universities for top-notch students, professors and researchers.

If the nouveau riche of higher education can keep their countries’ elite students from going to the U.S., then it could have serious long-term consequences for this country, whose colleges and universities have long attracted the best and brightest from around the world, who often stick around after graduation to add energy and innovation to the U.S. economy.


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