Wageningen UR has shot into the top 100 of the world's best universities, climbing from 144th to 75th place in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Other Dutch universities have also moved up the rankings spectacularly. Utrecht University has gone from 143th to 68th place, making it the only Dutch university above Wageningen.
The list has been readjusted in many ways because of a new methodology used by the English publisher. The big news - in England as well - is that the Netherlands has the third best university system in the world, with twelve universities in the top 200. The United States leads the country list with 75 universities in the top 200, followed by England with 32 universities. Germany and the Netherlands share third place. But in the other key global university ranking system, the Shanghai index (ARWU), Dutch universities have actually gone down the rankings. Wageningen is now in the group that shares position 101-200, having been at 101-150 a year ago. The ARWU attaches more weight to the number of Nobel prize winners, while in the Times Higher Ed rankings, educational performance counts more - to the advantage of Dutch universities.
Beyond this, how the ranking is done remains a mystery, says information specialist Wouter Gerritsma, who supplies Wageningen's particulars for the world ranking. 'Last year, Times Higher was criticised a lot, so it has adjusted the criteria. Exactly how, I am not sure. I do know that our publication scores have improved after the dip in the number of publications following the merger between the university and DLO. The citation scores are higher than last year's, too. We also score well on the number of international MSc students, which was not counted last time.'
Gerritsma considers it unique for a specialized university such as Wageningen to score so high in the general rankings. 'International students are partly influenced by these rankings in their choice. If you're among the top 100, then you're somebody. We will now be received with even more respect by overseas universities.'