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BU Named “International Powerhouse” by Times Higher Ed

One of 53 schools that could rival “old stars” like Oxford, Harvard, MIT


Boston University has been named by Times Higher Education (THE) to a list of 53 “international powerhouse” institutions, schools that have the best chance of  being grouped alongside—or even ahead of—THE’s most elite global “old stars,” a group that includes the University of Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Princeton.

The University’s placement on the “international powerhouse” list is largely because of the strength and impact of its medical and health-related research, as well as its research in the life and physical sciences, says THE data analyst Billy Wong. As with many other universities on the list, Wong adds, BU’s focus on interdisciplinary research also played an important role. The list is based on data tracking reputation and research performance—as measured by citations in recognized academic journals—that THE collected from 980 research universities globally for its 2016-2017 World University Rankings.

Old Star Universities

University World Rank
University of Oxford 1
Stanford University 3
University of Cambridge 4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5
Harvard University 6
Princeton University 7
University of California, Berkeley 10
Yale University 12
University of California, Los Angeles 14
Columbia University 16

Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings

“What being on this list recognizes is that we have world-class faculty who are doing highly impactful work in areas that we think matter,” says Jean Morrison, University provost. “It says that we’re well positioned to continue to excel and to be considered among the world’s very best universities. It’s validation of our sense that we’re on a strong upward trajectory.”

Making the international powerhouse list were 28 schools from the United States, among them Duke, Johns Hopkins, New York University, Ohio State, and Brown University. Imperial College London, the University of Toronto, and the National University of Singapore also made the list, which includes schools from 11 countries across North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Many of the institutions on the list have medical schools and are strong in clinical—or medical and health-related—research, Wong says.

BU’s spot on the “international powerhouse” list reflects the University’s investment in peaks of excellence in medical and health-related research—including in global health and infectious diseases—as well as in areas such as photonics, engineering, biology, and neuroscience, says Morrison, adding that the list also validates BU’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration. Morrison points to work led by Christopher Chen, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, and Michael Hasselmo, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences, as examples of important interdisciplinary research efforts.

Several months ago, THE ranked the employability of BU graduates 11th in the world and 7th in the nation as part of its Global University Employability Ranking 2016.

BU’s spot on the international powerhouse list is “additional validation of the impact we’re having globally,” says Morrison. “What’s important is that we’ve got an array of activities that are moving the University forward. We’ve got outstanding faculty who are moving fields forward and we have academic program offerings, including study abroad, that are helping to develop our students as global citizens.”

In compiling the international powerhouse list, Wong says, THE analyzed data on citations and reputation across eight broad areas: arts and humanities, business and economics, computer science, clinical research and health, engineering, life sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences.

“This is not a ranking,” he says. “This is about identifying universities that have a similar research profile.” He adds that Harvard, Oxford, and the other old stars are at the top of THE’s world university rankings “because, in general, they perform at a very high level of excellence across all eight subjects. People don’t perceive them as being specialized in any particular subjects.”

The international powerhouses tend to excel in a smaller number of subjects, often in science-related disciplines, says Wong, and their academic influence as measured by citations tends to exceed their prestige. “Their excellence is not reflected in their reputation,” he says. “If they continue to do quality research, then their reputations will continue to build.”

Full list of 53 International Powerhouse Universities

University Country World rank
California Institute of Technology United States 2
Imperial College London United Kingdom 8
ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland 9
University of Chicago United States 10
University of Pennsylvania United States 13
University College London United Kingdom 15
Johns Hopkins University United States 17
Duke University United States 18
Cornell University United States 19
Northwestern University United States 20
University of Michigan United States 21
University of Toronto Canada 22
Carnegie Mellon University United States 23
National University of Singapore Singapore 24
University of Washington United States 25
London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom 25
University of Edinburgh United Kingdom 27
Peking University China 29
LMU Munich Germany 30
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland 30
New York University United States 32
Georgia Institute of Technology United States 33
University of Melbourne Australia 33
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States 36
King’s College London United Kingdom 36
University of British Columbia Canada 36
KU Leuven Belgium 40
University of California, San Diego United States 41
McGill University Canada 42
University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 43
Heidelberg University Germany 43
University of Wisconsin-Madison United States 45
Technical University of Munich Germany 46
Australian National University Australia 47
University of California, Santa Barbara United States 48
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong 49
University of Texas at Austin United States 50
University of California, Davis United States 51
Brown University United States 51
University of Minnesota United States 53
University of Manchester United Kingdom 55
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States 56
Humboldt University of Berlin Germany 57
University of Southern California United States 60
University of Sydney Australia 60
University of Amsterdam Netherlands 63
Boston University United States 64
University of Maryland, College Park United States 67
Pennsylvania State University United States 68
Purdue University United States 70
Ohio State University United States 72
Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 76
Michigan State University United States 101

Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings

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Sara Rimer, Director, Research Communications at Boston University
Sara Rimer

Sara Rimer can be reached at srimer@bu.edu.

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