Chinese Universities Outnumber US In ARWU Top-1,000 Ranking


The United States continued its dominance of the top 10 spots in the 2023 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) list, but for the first time, the total number of mainland Chinese universities appearing in the list of 1,000 universities outnumbered those of the US by a small margin.

However, in the Top 100, the United States retained its dominance, holding 38 positions compared with mainland China with 10 spots, the United Kingdom with eight, Australia with seven, Canada with five, and Germany, France and Switzerland with four each.

The Netherlands, Sweden and Israel each had three universities in the Top 100, while Japan, Belgium, Denmark and Singapore had two each. They were followed by Finland and Norway with one institution each in the Top 100.

The annual ARWU ranking (also known as the Shanghai Ranking, based in Shanghai, China) was launched in 2003 and this year considered 2,500 institutions in the course of the rankings process, publishing only the best 1,000.

No changes at the very top

As it had for the past 21 years, Harvard University took first place, followed by Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in second and third place respectively.

All top 13 institutional positions on the rankings remain unchanged from last year.

Other than US universities, two UK universities – Cambridge at fourth and Oxford at seventh – featured in the Top 10. The others Top 10 spots were taken by Berkeley at fifth, Princeton at sixth, Columbia at eight, Caltech at ninth and Chicago at 10th.

Outside of the United States and the United Kingdom, the next highest-placed institution was France’s Paris-Saclay University at position 15 (up from 16 in 2022), followed by Switzerland’s ETH Zurich at 20 (unchanged from last year).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-Lausanne in Switzerland made a notable first-time entry at 54, after being ranked 101-150 last year.

Although it dropped from 32 to 35, the University of Melbourne continued to lead all other universities in Oceania, as it has for 13 consecutive years since 2011, according to an ARWU press release.

The University of Sao Paulo in Brazil (101-150) topped the South American universities’ list while the King Saud University in Saudi Arabia ranked 101-150, making it the leader in the Arab world. According to the Saudi Gazette, the number of Saudi universities that found a place in the Shanghai Ranking shot up from seven in 2022 to 12 in 2023.

Progress from China

Mainland China’s notable progress in the higher education sector continued to be reflected in the fact that a total of 191 universities ranked in the Top 1,000, outnumbering the 187 institutions on the list from the United States.

Tsinghua University appeared highest on the list at 22, up from 26 last year, making it the highest ranked university in Asia. It was followed by Peking University at 29 (up from 34 last year) and Zhejiang University at 33 (up from 36 in 2022). Japan’s University of Tokyo was the second highest in Asia at position 27 but slipped from last year’s position at 24.

China as a whole (including the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau) was placed second in the ranking after the US across all categories: Top 100 (11 institutions); Top 500 (98 institutions); and Top 1,000 (214 institutions).

All Chinese institutions in the Top 100 showed improvements in their ranking, with the exception of the University of Science and Technology China, which dropped slightly from 62 to 64.

Two Chinese universities – Central South University (95) and Nanjing University (96) – were new entrants to the Top 100 in 2023.

According to China Daily, a total of 35 Chinese universities entered the Top 1,000 for the first time.


On the African continent, the University of Cape Town (UCT) continued to prevail, ranking in the 201-300 band, followed by the University of Cairo at 301-400.

In South Africa, UCT was followed by the University of the Witwatersrand (301-400), and Stellenbosch University and the University of Pretoria both at 401-500.

The University of Johannesburg dropped back into the lower range in 2023 after being the only climber in 2022. It is now ranked 501-600, along with the North-West University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


The ARWU ranking is based on a set of six objective indicators, all relating to research excellence, as well as third-party data.

The indicators include the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (two separate indicators), the number of articles published in Nature and Science; the number of highly-cited researchers; articles indexed in Science Citation Index-Expanded and Social Science Citation Index in the preceding calendar year; and per capita performance.

In response to a comment on Twitter, Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates, said he would argue the ARWU ranking is the best university ranking system for “locating where the biggest deposits of scientific (mainly STEM) talent are”.


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