La Sapienza University of Rome which was the highest ranked of the Italina universities by CWUR

Italian universities dropping in CWUR rankings


Italy’s standing in global university education competitiveness has faced a setback, as revealed in the 2024 edition of the rankings published annually by the Center World University Rankings (CWUR).

Despite 67 Italian universities making it onto this year’s list, a staggering 75% of them have experienced a decline in their rankings. Notably, La Sapienza University in Rome, which holds the top position among Italian universities, has slipped eight places to 124th position. Similarly, the University of Padua dropped from 171st to 173rd place, while the University of Milan fell from 180th to 186th place.

This decline is attributed to diminishing research outcomes amidst escalating global competition from well-funded universities. Only 16 universities in Italy have shown improvement compared to the previous year, while 51 have witnessed a decline.

CWUR criteria

The study evaluates universities based on four parameters: quality of education (25%), employability (25%), quality of faculty (10%), and research (40%). With a total of 20,966 universities ranked globally, those featured in the top rankings join the prestigious ‘Global 2000’ list, encompassing institutions from 94 countries.

According to Nadim Mahassen, President of the Center for World University Rankings, Italy’s education and research sectors face mounting pressure amidst the expanding higher education systems worldwide. He emphasises the urgent need for increased public investments in research and development to avert further decline in Italy’s performance.

“It is clear that Italy’s position in the field of education and research is increasingly under pressure following the growth of higher education systems around the world; only in China investments in research have grown by 33%. Further public investments in research and development, Italy risks further decreasing its performance in the future,” commented Mahassen.

US has top 3 positions with Europe numbering more in top 2000

In contrast, the United States maintains its dominance in the rankings, with Harvard University securing the top spot for the thirteenth consecutive year, followed closely by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University.

However, even the US is encountering challenges from growing international competition, particularly from China, where 95% of its 324 universities have seen improved rankings.

Europe continues to hold a prominent position in the rankings, with 639 institutions in the top 2,000, led by prestigious universities such as Cambridge and Oxford in the UK, and Psl in France.

China’s ascent in the rankings is attributed to substantial investments in higher education, with Tsinghua University leading the charge in 43rd place globally.

Despite challenges faced by universities in Japan and India due to low government spending on tertiary education, the global landscape remains dynamic, with shifts in rankings reflecting evolving priorities and investments in higher education worldwide.

Europe’s Top 10 universities according to CWUR

  1. Cambridge (UK, 4th)
  2. Oxford (UK, 5th),
  3. Psl (France),
  4.  Ucl (UK),
  5. Imperial College (UK),
  6. Paris Saclay (France, 31st),
  7. ETH Zurich (Switzerland, 32nd),
  8. Paris City University (France, 33rd),
  9. Sorbonne University (France, 36th)
  10. Copenhagen (Denmark, 38th).

Top 10 Italian University Rankings (CWUR)

Italy’s highest positioned university in the world rankings is Rome’s Sapienza University in 124th place.

  1. La Sapienza University of Rome (124th, down 8 places)
  2. University of Padua (173rd, down 2 places),
  3. University of Milan (186th down 6 places)
  4. University of Bologna (201st)
  5. University of Turin (245th)
  6. University of Naples Federico II (253rd),
  7. University of Florence (267th),
  8. University of Genoa (286th),
  9. University of Pisa (288th)
  10. University of Pavia (321st).

However, the focus on research – 40%- in this ranking does not mean the universities are best placed for those looking for employability at the end of the study.

In September, a new  ranking focused exclusively on European universities gave better news for Italian universities. The QS World University Rankings is the only ranking of its kind to emphasise employability and sustainability.

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