Society and Culture

U of A rises 20 spots in leading global ranking of top universities

Quality of faculty members and research performance bolster best-ever showing in latest CWUR rankings.

  • April 26, 2021
  • By Michael Brown

The University of Alberta struck deep into the top 100 of a leading ranking of the world’s top universities, thanks to the quality of the school’s faculty and their research.

According to the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) World University Rankings 2021-22, the U of A sits 81st in the world—up 20 spots from last year’s showing—and fourth in Canada.

"Rankings are a measure of our reputation for excellence in education and research, and the impact that our students, faculty and alumni have in their disciplines, communities, and professions," said U of A president Bill Flanagan. "The U of A's high ranking in this year's CWUR is testament to the continued hard work and talent of the entire U of A community."

CWUR publishes the largest academic rankings of global universities, examining 19,777 post-secondary institutions for inclusion in its rank of the top 2,000. What makes its rankings unique is that objective indicators are used for all four key pillars underlying the methodology—quality of education (25 per cent), alumni employment (25), quality of faculty (10) and research performance (40)—with no reliance on surveys and university data submissions.

The U of A fared particularly well in the quality of faculty and research performance categories, finishing 70th and 83rd in the world respectively.

Bolstering the U of A’s showing in the quality of faculty pillar was the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in the fall of last year to renowned U of A virologist Michael Houghton in recognition of his discovery of the hepatitis C virus.

“The fundamental strength of every university is its people, and the University of Alberta is proud to attract some of the best researchers and students in the world and ensure they have what they need to succeed,” said Flanagan.

The U of A also ranked 47th in North America. Topping the world list was Harvard, followed by MIT, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford. The three Canadian schools finishing just ahead of the U of A were the universities of Toronto and British Columbia, and McGill University.

This ranking comes on the heels of strong performances by the U of A in two other recent global rankings. The 2021 THE Impact Rankings, released on World Creativity and Innovation Day April 21, placed the university 64th in the world for its efforts to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on campus, in the community and around the world. And the 2021 QS World University Rankings by Subject saw the U of A land in the top 10 of sports-related subjects (9th) for the fifth consecutive year, and petroleum engineering (9th) in back-to-back years. As well, the U of A held steady at 11th in the area of mining and minerals engineering, while leaping four spots to 14th in nursing, which moved back into the top 20 last year.

Other subjects in which the U of A ranked in the top 50 in the QS rankings included anatomy and physiology, where the program jumped 10 spots to 34th; geology, which rose five spots to 45th; geophysics, which finished 41st; and earth and marine sciences, which slid one spot to 42nd.

Rounding out subjects in which the U of A finished in the world’s top 100 were education (61st), pharmacy and pharmacology (62nd), chemistry (81st), agriculture and forestry (86th), medicine (tied for 92nd), English language and literature (tied for 94th), chemical engineering (97th) and archeology (ranked among the 51–100 group).