The latest World University Rankings is out: how are Indonesia Universities doing?

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2016-2017 has been published this week.

The rankings have been produced for 12 years and list the top 980 universities in the world.

The rankings are produced looking at 13 performance indicators grouped in are grouped into five areas:
– Teaching (the learning environment)
– Research (volume, income and reputation)
– Citations (research influence)
– International outlook (staff, students and research)
– Industry income (knowledge transfer)

You can read more about the Methodology here.

Interestingly, the calculation of the rankings for 2016-2017 has been audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The rankings include universities from 79 countries. Oxford is at the top of the table. US universities remain strong with 148 universities in the top 980 and 63 in the top 200.

Asian universities are moving quickly up towards the top. At the same time, academic institutions in France, Italy and Spain and other parts of central Europe are losing ground against them. The authors of the rankings argue that this trend is evidence the ‘ Asia’s improvement in higher education is real and growing.’ Overall, 289 Asian universities from 24 countries make the rankings and 19 of them are in the top 200, up from 15 last year. Five of Hong Kong’s six represented universities make the top 200 – more than any other Asian region – while South Korea has also made great strides. And the National University of Singapore, Asia’s top university, is at 24th – its highest ever rank.

How are Indonesian universities doing, considering the ascent of Asian institutions? Not well, unfortunatelly.

Only two Indonesian universities are listed among the 980 of the rankings: Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and University of Indonesia. Both are in the 801+ group.


I think that international rankings like this are not an easy type of evidence to produce. The criteria used to develop them are a compromise and the quality of data on which they are built may be variable. Moreover, different rankings use different criteria. For example, Top Universities ( ranks 916 universities in 81 countries. Here University Indonesia ranks 325th, instead do 801+ of the The Times Higher Education rankings.

At the same time, these rankings serve a purpose. They are helpful in providing a sense of the gap that countries have to bridge (or have bridged) in terms of research capacity and, more in general, their human capital development.

The rankings show that Indonesian universities are (comparatively) struggling to reach the quality of instruction and research standards that ultimately will help to better compete academically and contribute to the development of a strong knowledge-based economy.

A question that these results raised for me is whether there is a correlation between the university rankings and effective evidence-based policy making systems in the countries that have made it into this list. In other words, are countries high up in the rankings using more evidence to inform policy decision than the ones who are on the lower end of the spectrum?

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