The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) is produced by the Institute of Higher Education at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Several indicators of academic or research performance are used to establish the ranking, these include highly cited researchers, articles indexed in major citation indices and staff winning Nobel Prizes.

The World’s Top-500 universities (2008) are mainly located in Europe (n=210; 40%), the Americas (n=190; 40%) and the Asian/Pacific region (n=100; 20%). There are nine universities located in Spain, representing 2% of the World’s Top-500 universities and 4% of the European universities in the ARWU ranking.

The Top-6 universities in Spain are: 1. University of Barcelona (ranked 152-200 in the world); 2. University Autonoma of Madrid (201-302), 2. University Complutense – Madrid; 4. University Autonoma Barcelona (303-401), 4. University Polytechnic Valencia (303-401) and 4. University of Valencia (303-401). This means that the top universities are located in three largest urban centres of Spain (Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia) and the top university is not located in the capital city.

All six universities are public institutions and the total number of students per university is relatively large compared to other countries (e.g. United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands). The average number of students for the Top-6 universities is 55,416, with a range from 33,118 at the University Autonoma of Madrid to 91,251 at the University Complutense – Madrid.

In order to make inter-country comparisons, AllAboutUni calculates the number of universities in the World’s Top-500 per million inhabitants. The overall number of universities per million inhabitants is 0.5 for industrialized countries. An earlier assessment found that small countries in Western Europe (Sweden (1.2), Finland (1.1) and Switzerland (1.0)) and New Zealand (1.2) has the highest number of universities per million inhabitants.

The number of universities in the World’s Top-500 universities that are located in Spain is 0.2 per million inhabitants. Other large industrialized countries have the following figures: Australia (0.7), the Netherlands (0.7), United Kingdom (0.7), Canada (0.6), United States (0.5), Germany (0.5), France (0.4), Italy (0.4), Japan (0.2) and South Korea (0.2). This means that the performance of Spain is very low compared to other industrialized countries. For example, Sweden has six times more universities in the ARWU ranking (per million inhabitants) than Spain.

In conclusion, Spain performs poorly when its universities are compared to other industrialized countries in the world. It does not have a university in the World’s Top-100, its best university (the University of Barcelona) is only ranked 152-200 and it has a very low density of top universities per million inhabitants compared to other industrialized countries.

John Paget, Founder of the
website. John studied Economics at the London School of Economics and then completed graduate studies in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The website was launched in November 2007.

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