The numbers are in: the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings list is out, and the University of Auckland isn’t looking as good as it once did.

While still New Zealand’s leading tertiary institution, Auckland has dropped 27 places from 165th to 192nd position in what has been called a “shock result,” Global Rankings editorial director Phil Baty said.

“Compared with last year, Auckland University suffers from lower teaching and research reputations and a poorer citation impact. If current trends continue then the country may not have a world top 200 representative for the first time in future years,” he said.

The THE has published the 14th annual edition of its World University Rankings a list of the top 1000 universities from 77 countries. The rankings assess universities performance across their key missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

A University of Auckland spokesperson said they were disappointed with the change.

“Our total score in the THE system dropped by only a small amount, from 53.4 to 52.6, but because of the large number of universities with scores close to that figure, that was sufficient to push us down the rankings.

“Over the last decade, the general trend for New Zealand universities has been for their rankings to decline. We are not exempt from that trend, which occurs because our universities are forced by Government policy to have some of the lowest levels of income per student in the world while other countries are investing heavily to improve their universities and take them up the rankings.”

Executive Director of Te Pokai Tara Universities New Zealand Chris Whelan also cited a long-term decrease in funding as the key issue for Auckland’s drop in the rankings.

“Auckland has, long term, done incredibly well competing with big country systems like China and Russia which are spending huge amounts of money to rise in the rankings at the expense of universities like Auckland. It is part of a long term trend, where New Zealand universities are dropping in the top 200 rankings because other countries have better funding than us.”

It’s a difficult and increasingly expensive environment, he said.

“On a per student funding basis we’re at about 95% of the OECD average. We’re 27 per cent below Australia, 60 per cent below England and 90 per cent below the US. We are on a par (in terms of funding per student) with countries like Malaysia, Colombia, Turkey and Brasil.”

Outside of Auckland, The University of Otago, University of Canterbury and Massey University all maintained their performance while the University of Waikato and the Auckland University of Technology both jumped a band. Lincoln University dropped from 401-500 to the 501-600 ranking.

While the list is important in encouraging staff and students world-wide to come and study in New Zealand, Whelan urged caution when responding to the THE list.

“There is often lots of noise around the rankings and a lot of movement in the rankings. There is a huge number of surveys sent out and you’re not sure who answers them year to year. And universities can regularly drop 5–10 places”.

Cambridge and Oxford Universities took out the top two places in the rankings, with US colleges dominating with seven American institutions in the top 10. Chinese universities are also climbing year by year and for the first time there are three Asian universities in the top 30 of the THE ranking, under the current methodology.


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