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How did European universities do in U-Multirank?

European universities performed strongly in the second edition of U-Multirank, the global higher education rankings supported with €4 million funding from the European Commission. Here Nic Mitchell finds out who came top for what!


Reutlingen University of Applied Science in Germany had the highest percentage of ‘Co-publications with industry’ among all 1210 universities assessed worldwide.

French business schools did also well, with EDHEC, ESSEC and IESEG School of Management Lille each gaining two ‘Top 5’ spots for different indicators.

IESEG led the rankings for ‘Spin-offs’ and ‘Student mobility’ – while ESSEC Business School Cergy was ranked top for ‘Income from private sources’ and came 4th for ‘Masters’ graduation rate’. EDHEC was in the ‘Top 5’ for ‘International doctorate degrees’ and ‘Income from private sources’.

How U-Multirank work

Launched last year in Brussels, U-Multirank, or UMR, set out to break the mould of traditional world university league tables, such as those published by QS, Times Higher Education, or THE, and the ARWU Shanghai rankings.

Instead of a ‘Top 200’ league table created through composite scores, UMR is a web-based tool designed to encourage ‘like-with-like’ comparisons to find the strongest performing university for whatever users are looking for.

Universities were examined from 83 countries with U-Multirank comparing the performance of 1,210 higher education institutions – up from 850 last year!

Universities were graded from ‘A’ for very good to ‘E’ for weak. This year U-Multirank helpfully published a list of universities with the highest scores in 24 of the 31 indicators it uses to compare institutional performance.

The overall results revealed pockets of excellence around the world, with 148 institutions from 29 countries achieving ten or more top ‘A’ grades.

Limitations of the rankings

Most of the indicators outside the fields of research and patents relied on universities supplying data to U-Multirank, a point acknowledged by Professor Frans van Vught, UMR’s joint project leader.

This limited comparisons in many categories, including those won by the French business schools, to the 672 institutions actively providing data themselves and not the total sample of 1210 institutions looked at by U-Multirank.

This could help explain why no British or Australian university appeared in the ‘Top 5’ ranking of any of the indicators – although, perhaps, a key factor was that only 12 UK universities actively participated in U-Multirank this year.

US dominates research rankings

North American universities dominated UMR’s research and patent rankings, with New York’s Rockefeller University being the only institution to gain five ‘Top 5’ ranking spots. These were all for indicators measuring citations, patents and research publications.

but some surprises…

Russia’s Lomonosov Moscow State University had a surprisingly strong performance in this year’s U-Multirank. It joined high-flying Caltech and MIT in the United States by gaining 4 ‘Top 5’ spots across the various indicators.

The Moscow university came first for external research income among the 672 institutions actively participating in UMR.

Among the research indicators measuring all 1,210 universities in U-Multirank were two notable successes for European institutions.

Hanken School of Economics in Finland came 3rd for ‘Citation rate’, the only non-US university to get a ‘Top 5’ spot in this category.

University Fernando Pessoa in Portugal was the only European institution in the ‘Top 5’ for ‘Interdisciplinary publications’ – a category it won!

Other indicators led by the Europeans included ‘Art related research output’, which was won by University of Magdeburg, Germany.

Strength in knowledge transfer

Knowledge transfer, one of the five dimensions of U-Multirank, saw a strong European performance in a number of indicators, including co-publications with industrial partners: Telecom ParisTech and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands came second and third behind Germany’s Reutlingen University.

Spin-offs proved another strong area for European higher education, but it was ‘International Orientation’ and ‘Regional Engagement’ where European higher education appeared to be strongest.

Tops spots for student mobility

European universities, led by IESEG School of Management Lille, took all 5 top spots for student mobility.

Tallaght Institute of Technology, Ireland, had the highest percentage of ‘International academic staff’, while University of Applied Science Wiener Neustadt, Austria was ranked top for ‘International joint publications’.

University of Liechtenstein topped the indicator for ‘International doctorate degrees’ while ISEL Lisbon, Portugal, came top for ‘Regional joint publications’ and Cyprus International Institute of Management was for ‘Income from Regional sources’.

Moscow Aviation Institute had the best ‘Bachelor graduation rate’ while Zeppelin University, Germany, topped the rankings for ‘Masters’ graduation rate’.

Ireland had a very successful U-Multirank, with University College Cork winning the highest overall number of ‘A’ scores, with 21 top grades spread across the different indicators. Two Dutch universities shared second and third places, with Eindhoven gaining 20 and Wageningen getting 19.

Looking to the future

Looking to the future, UMR joint project leader, Professor Dr. Frank Ziegele, from the Centre for Higher Education in Germany, said the target was to have 1,000 fully participating universities by 2017.

“We’ve got nearly every university in countries, like Spain, and there’s lots of interest from outside Europe, particularly from Japan.

“We’re also hoping that by 2017 to attract sufficient funding from philanthropic international foundations to allow us to continue to provide an open source of comparable data for students, universities and other interested users.”

Final word

Final word to Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, who said: “U-Multirank has once again shown its added value. I am very pleased that with the seed-funding for U-Multirank from the Erasmus+ programme, the EU is helping to bring new transparency to how universities perform so students can make well-informed study choices and universities can build on their strengths.”




For more about U-Multirank, see:

Background information and performance statistics for U-Multirank second edition:

U-Multirank Readymade rankings (broken into the best universities for Research; Knowledge Transfer and Regional Engagement; Teaching and Learning; and International Orientation)

U_Multirank online at