The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is first published in June 2003 by the Center for World-Class Universities and the Institute of Higher Education of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, and then updated on an annual basis. ARWU uses six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Scientific, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index - Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance with respect to the size of an institution. More than 1000 universities are actually ranked by ARWU every year and the best 500 are published on the web.
Although the initial purpose of ARWU was to find the global standing of Chinese top universities, it has attracted a great deal of attention from universities, governments and public media worldwide. A survey on higher education published by The Economist in 2005 commented ARWU as "the most widely used annual ranking of the world's research universities"1. Burton Bollag, a reporter at Chronicle of Higher Education wrote that ARWU "is considered the most influential international ranking"2.
One of the factors for the significant influence of ARWU is that its methodology is globally sound and transparent. The EU Research Headlines reported the ARWU work on 31st December 2003: "The universities were carefully evaluated using several indicators of research performance."3 Chancellor of Oxford University, Chris Patten, said "the methodology looks fairly solid ... it looks like a pretty good stab at a fair comparison."4 Professor Simon Margison of University of Melbourne commented that one of the strengths of "the academically rigorous and globally inclusive Jiao Tong approach" is "constantly tuning its rankings and invites open collaboration in that"5.
The ARWU and its content have been widely cited and employed as a starting point for identifying national strengths and weaknesses as well as facilitating reform and setting new initiatives. Bill Destler, the president of the Rochester Institute of Technology, drew reference to the ARWU to analyze the comparative advantages that the Western Europe and US have in terms of intellectual talent and creativity in his publication in the journal Nature6. Martin Enserink referred to ARWU and argued in his paper published in Science that "France's poor showing in the Shanghai ranking ... helped trigger a national debate about higher education that resulted in a new law... giving universities more freedom"7.
Starting from 2009, the ARWU has been published by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, a fully independent organization. Besides ARWU, the Consultancy is going to provide various global comparison and in-depth analysis on research universities, supporting relevant decision making by national governments and universities in global context.
1A world of opportunity. (2005). The Economist, Vol. 376. Issue 8443, p14-16. Also Available at:
2Group endorses principles for ranking universities. (2006, June 9). Chronicle of Higher Education. Available at:
4Chris Patten's speech. (2004, February 5). Guardian. Available at:
5Marginson, S. (2007). Global university comparisons: the second stage. Paper presented at the Symposium on International Trends in University Rankings and Classifications, 12 February 2007, Griffith University, Australia. Also available at:
6Destler, B. (2008). A new relationship. Nature, 453, p853-854. Also Available at:
7Enserink, M. (2007). Who Ranks the University Rankers? Science, Vol. 317. no. 5841, p 1026-1028. Also Available at: