The rankings are produced annually by the British company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). They offer scores for individual degree courses at 5,019 universities, as well as an overall ranking, taking into account post-graduate performance and research output.
As happens regularly, the university of Leuven heads the rankings in Belgium, in 80th place overall. Ghent follows at 130, followed by the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve (UCL at 167).
The other universities figuring among the 500 highest are the Free University of Brussels (VUB) at 195, the university of Antwerp at 223; the Free University of Brussels (ULB) at 251 and the university of Liege at 429.
KU Leuven scored highly for its international faculty, citations per faculty and academic reputation. It ranked 16th in the world for theology – with a reputation going back six centuries – and 18th for sports-related studies. The university has 18 of its 38 programmes in the world top 50, although 15 slipped back compared to last year, while eight rose one place.
The university of Ghent scored highly for two of its specialities: 11th for veterinary medicine and 12th for agriculture and forestry. The ranking for vet science is the highest of any Belgian institution, while the ranking for agriculture is nine places higher than last year. The university’s research output was also rated “very high”.
UCL, meanwhile, also scored highly for theology (12th place) – not surprisingly, since its history only diverged from that of the KU Leuven in the 1960s. It also scored very highly for international faculty and for citations per faculty.
Notable among all the results is the excellent scores all round for research.
“The total of the data collected this year shows that 16% of the Belgian universities obtained a score of 90% or higher for the criterion of citations, which demonstrates the remarkable character of the research carried out by higher education in Belgium,” said Jack Moran, spokesperson for QS.
The overall world rankings present no surprises at the top: the top three places go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford and Harvard – exactly the same as last year, 2018 and 2017.