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Flanders' universities on the rise in world rankings

Flanders' higher education is known for its quality and high standards. In the most recent rankings of Times Higher Education, the Shanghai Ranking and the QS World University Rankings, the universities of Leuven, Ghent and Antwerp performed excellently. “Gaining a good place in rankings such as those of Times Higher Education can have far-reaching consequences,” says Herman Van Goethem, rector of UAntwerpen.

Climbing up the ladder

Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, counts 5 world-class universities:

  • KU Leuven (University of Leuven)
  • UGent (University of Ghent)
  • UAntwerpen (University of Antwerp)
  • VUB (Free University of Brussels)
  • UHasselt (University of Hasselt)

Together, they generate almost 90% of all the non-private scientific output of the region. In that sense, they are a crucial engine to Flanders’ knowledge economy.

Internationally, Flanders’ universities are celebrated for their high standards, as proven by this year's worldwide university rankings of Times Higher Education, the Shanghai Ranking (officially: Academic Ranking of World Universities or ARWU) and the QS World University Rankings.

The best of Times

On the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE), KU Leuven is Flanders' best-ranked university, climbing to 42nd place. UGent enters the top 100 for the first time, occupying place 96. UAntwerpen can be found at place 143, its best position ever. Oxford University remains the number 1 university worldwide. “It is something special internationally when you end up in the top 50,” said Luc Sels, rector of KU Leuven.

This probably puts us in the top four, five or six universities in continental Europe. That is a position we very much want to maintain.

Luc Sels
Rector KU Leuven

For Luc Sels, the Times Higher Education ranking holds the most weight. “They consider four domains that are also important criteria for the government in their evaluation of universities. They look at education, research, internationalization, but also at valorization and cooperation with other partners, such as entrepreneurs.”

Flanders gets noticed in Shanghai

In the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) – shortened to the Shanghai Ranking – UGent holds the top spot for Flanders, at place 71. KU Leuven is 87th in this ranking. UAntwerpen and VUB are ranked between 201 and 300, UHasselt between 501 and 600.

Rik Van de Walle, rector of UGent, attributes the good grades to its strong research and education programs.

Especially in terms of international reputation, I think we still have some margin for improvement in the coming years.

Rik Van de Walle
Rector UGent

Herman Van Goethem, rector of UAntwerpen, also points out the importance of publishing more and more research.

We have been building on research publications for a long time and now it is starting to pay off.

Herman Van Goethem
Rector UAntwerpen

Crucial for collaborations

Gaining a good place in rankings such as those of Times Higher Education can have far-reaching consequences, Herman Van Goethem explains. “Internationalization is essential for universities, because interdisciplinarity has become so important. And how do you find a suitable university to collaborate with? By looking at these rankings.”

More info

KU LeuvenUGentUAntwerpen
Reported by
website VRT NWS and
17 September 2021

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