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Dutch research universities once again beacons of excellence in world rankings

Once again, the Netherlands is the third best represented  country in the prestigious Times Higher Education World University Rankings, behind the United States and the United Kingdom. Last year, seven Dutch universities appeared in the top 100, this year there are eight. VSNU Chairman Karl Dittrich: ‘Thirteen Dutch universities feature in the world's top 250, and eight of those are in the top 100. If you consider that there are more than 30,000 universities in the world, then all our institutions that feature in these rankings are in the top 1% internationally, something I'm proud of.’


There have been a few slight shifts within the rankings. Universiteit Leiden is once again the top-scoring research university, while the Universiteit Maastricht is a new entry in the top 100.



How come there is no top 50 placing?
The VSNU is regularly asked how come no Dutch universities feature in the top 50 or even the top 10. Chairman Karl Dittrich: ‘If, like Harvard, you really wanted to reach the pinnacle, then you would have to combine the best elements of every Dutch university in one institute. And that still wouldn't be enough. The equity capital of somewhere like Harvard is many times greater than the equity capital of all the Dutch universities combined. What is more, creating a top institute of that calibre would automatically mean that all the other universities would see a sharp drop in respect due to less excellent research and education. That would leave you with one beacon of excellence and condemn the rest to mediocrity. We don't want that.’

Rankings: a panacea?
The VSNU stresses that rankings are not a panacea; there are certain important aspects, such as the quality of teaching, that are not measured. Rankings therefore always give a restricted view of how universities are doing, although that doesn't stop universities being curious about the results. Despite their limitations, the rankings are taken seriously internationally and are seen as an indicator.

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Ruben Puylaert


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Gijs Kooistra

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