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Britain, Germany top 2016 ‘Best Colleges in Europe’ rankings

In the last few years, Americans have awakened to the reality college graduates are going into uncertain jobs markets with tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition debt, with tuitions rising every year across America.

Suddenly, sending them to university in Europe is becoming viewed as a rational alternative and Sen. Bernie Sanders has even made comparing the U.S system to the much more generous European system part of his stump speech. Why? Becuase going to school in Europe – generally speaking – is less expensive than in the United States while the quality of education is comparable, and even superior in some cases. In countries such as Germany, there is no tuition, only modest fees for those who qualify. (See our Dispatches post here with the details about going to school in Europe.)

So, where should you send your kid? The United Kingdom – if you have the cash or scholarships – turns out to be the answer.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings of Europe’s Top 200 universities were just released today, and colleges in the U.K. got the highest marks.

English universities take four of the Top 5 rankings. Switzerland’s ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich is the only non-U.K. university at the top of the list.

best-universities-in-europe-2016-countries-compared-smallAnd speaking of Germany, it only trails the U.K. with 36 institutions on the list, and 11 in the Top 50. The top university in Germany is LMU Munich at No. 10.

The Top 5 are:

  1. Oxford Univesity
  2. Cambridge University
  3. Imperial College London
  4. ETH Zurich
  5. University College London.

We’ll give you the full list, but first let’s look at how those who grade get graded. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings judges schools on:

  • Teaching (the learning environment)
  • Research (volume, income and reputation)
  • Citations (research influence)
  • International outlook (staff, students and research)
  • Industry income (knowledge transfer).

This caveat: According to a post last fall, Times Higher Education World changed their methodology last year, and they advise not to compare this year’s list to previous rankings. Their preface to the list makes clear the universities provide the data, which Times Higher Education World crunches. Included on their website are details about how data points such as staff-to-student ratios and the number of PhDs on staff are weighted in the five categories.

best-universities-in-europe-2016-median-overall-score-smallHere is the Top 20:

  1. Oxford
  2. Cambridge
  3. Imperial College London
  4. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
  5. University College London (UCL)
  6. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  7. University of Edinburgh
  8. King’s College London
  9. Karolinksa Institute (Sweden)
  10. LMU Munich
  11. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland)
  12. KU Leuven (Netherlands)
  13. Heidelberg University
  14. Wageningen University and Research Center (Netherlands)
  15. Humboldt University of Berlin
  16. Technical University of Munich
  17. École Normale Supérieure
  18. University of Manchester
  19. University of Amsterdam
  20. Utrecht University

We hate to be biased, because we do operate out of the Netherlands, but Dutch universities acquitted themselves well, as did German institutions of higher learning.

The UK grabs an astounding 46 places in the top 200! Germany is the second most-represented nation on the list with 36 out of 200, and about a third – 11 –  in the top 50, according to the Times Higher Education World rankings. The Netherlands has four schools in the Top 20, and eight in the Top 30 by our count. Not bad for a country roughly twice the size of New Jersey, and with only about 17 million people.

On the opposite end of the rankings, the Times Higher Education World narrative points out that Southern European countries do very poorly … very poorly, indeed. As do the former East Bloc nations. Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and the now-independent components of the former Yugoslavia including Bosnia and Serbia don’t even make the list. And don’t send your kids to Russia. Russia puts only 5 schools on the list, making it the lowest-ranked country relative to its large population and GDP.

There’s lots, lots more about education and Europe, and the whole list and narrative are good for about an hour of research.

Okay, about tuition costs. British universities are not free. BUT, a recent New York Times post reports there are moves afoot to make education at elite universities more diverse. Also, there are scholarships for American students through the English Speaking Union and other groups and institutions. You just need Google to get going. Oh, and kids, let’s start taking those German classes a little more seriously ….

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