The Academic Ranking of World’s Universities

An assessment carried out by AllAboutUni reveals that California has a relatively low density of the World’s Top-500 universities compared to industrialised countries in the world. is an independent, global and interactive website where visitors can obtain information about universities (global rankings, student reviews, university news and campus pictures).

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is produced by the Institute of Higher Education at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Several indicators of academic or research performance are used to establish the ranking, these include highly cited researchers, articles indexed in major citation indices and staff winning Nobel Prizes.

The World’s Top-500 universities (2008) are mainly located in Europe (n=210; 40%), the Americas (n=190; 40%) and the Asian/Pacific region (n=100; 20%). There are 159 (32%) universities located in the United States (US), of which 13 are located in California (click here).

California has a population of 37 million inhabitants, making it the most populated State in the US. It makes a very important contribution to the US economy and taken alone it has the world’s eighth largest economy in the world (in terms of Gross Domestic Product).

There are both public and private universities in California. The public universities are organized as follows: the University of California (UC) universities (10 campuses e.g. UC – Berkeley and UC – Los Angeles) which has a combined student body of more than 191,000 students, the California State Universities (CSU) which has over 400,000 students and the California Community Colleges system which provides lower division courses and has a student population of over 2.9 million.

The thirteen universities located in California that are in the World’s Top-500 universities are distributed as follows: nine UC universities (Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Irvine, Davis, Riverside and Santa Cruz), three private universities (Stanford, California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California) and one CSU university (San Diego State University).

An earlier assessment carried out by found that 36% (n=57) – more than one in three – of the US universities in the World’s Top-500 are located in just five States: New York (15), California (13), Texas (13), Massachusetts (9) and Pennsylvania (7) (click here). The assessment also found that the universities are not evenly distributed, with California having a higher representation at the top of the list: in the World’s Top-25 universities, the distribution is California (6), New York (2), Massachusetts (2), and Pennsylvania (1) and Texas (0).

The six Californian universities in the World’s Top-25 universities are: Stanford (ranked 2nd), UC – Berkeley (3rd), California Institute of Technology (6th), UC – Los Angeles (13th), UC – San Diego (14th) and UC – San Francisco (18th).

In order to make inter-country comparisons, calculates the number of universities in the World’s Top-500 per million inhabitants. The overall number of universities per million inhabitants is 0.5 for industrialised countries. An earlier assessment found that small countries in Western Europe (Sweden (1.2), Finland (1.1) and Switzerland (1.0) and New Zealand (1.2) has the highest number of universities per million inhabitants.

The number of universities in the World’s Top-500 universities that are located in California is 0.4 per million inhabitants. Large industrialized countries have the following figures: Australia (0.7), the Netherlands (0.7), United Kingdom (0.7), Canada (0.6), United States (0.5), Germany (0.5), France (0.4), Italy (0.4), Spain (0.2) and Japan (0.2).

In conclusion, despite California having some of the best universities in the world (e.g. Stanford, UC – Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology), the overall density of the World’s Top-500 universities is relatively low compared to industrialised countries in the world.