Published Feb. 13, 2021 by S. N. McGannon

This is a ranking of the top 20 universities in the German-speaking world ranked relative to each other by average world rank for the year 2020-2021. In this ranking the “German-speaking world” is defined as being constituted by the following countries: Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Also, this ranking is for universities in the German-speaking world. Thus, even a university whose primary instruction language is not German (ala University of Geneva) is ranked so long as it is physically located within the German-speaking world.

The ranking was created by using metadata sourced from the four prominent rankings of world universities (each ranking released in 2020): Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Times Higher Education (THE), and U.S. News & World Report (USNWR).

Rank was checked on each list for every university in the German-speaking world ranked on all the lists. Then for each university all its rank placements were averaged across lists to create the new list of average ranking for each university. The universities were then ranked according to their average ranking. The university with the highest average is thus ranked 1st, the one with the second highest average 2nd, and so on. 

Finally, the results were tabled, and are shown below (Table 1.). The leftmost column shows the final relative placement (relative placement based on average rank, i.e.), the “institution” column shows the institution ranked along with the flag of the country in which it is located, the next four rightward columns (ARWU, QS, THE, USNWR) show the rank for each given institution in each of those selected world rankings, and the rightmost column (“Average World Rank”) averages the four ranking lists’ rank placement for each university. 

Please note: Due to historical disputes regarding Nobel prize attribution between Free University of Berlin and Humboldt University of Berlin, neither university appears on ARWU’s ranking. However, both universities rank within the top 130 universities in the world (and even as high as 80) on all the other rankings. Thus, I personally feel this ranking would not adequately represent the top universities in the German-speaking world without these two universities. However, as I could not average their placement between the four rankings, and whereas all other universities appearing on the list could be averaged by placement across all four rankings (as I’ve sometimes waved the requirement that a university rank on all four lists if universities are lacking for that particular list), I have chosen to list Humboldt University of Berlin and Free University of Berlin with their average across the three rankings on which they appear — QS, THE, and USNWR — as unranked in my relative metaranking, but, as ranked in the “Average World Rank” column and thereby placed among the other universities accordingly within my relative ranking (i.e. where they would appear were their average world rank sufficient to rank them). So, Humboldt University of Berlin appears after 6th-place University of Zurich and before 7th-place University of Geneva for the reason that its average world rank (based on those three rankings in which it is ranked) lies between the two. The same procedure has been applied for Free University of Berlin. In this regard, ‘(NR)‘ appears on the list and means “not ranked”.

Some observations —

  • The original ranking which best predicts the summed average is ARWU.
  • The original ranking which most poorly predicts the summed average is THE.
  • The worst prediction is QS’s University of Bonn 240 — 101.25 places greater than its 138.75 average.
  • No list predicts the top 10.
  • The only university to make the list not located in Germany or Switzerland is University of Vienna (Austria).

If anything appears to be in error, please email me at tuulifunctional@snmcgannon.com.

Ranking of Universities in the German-speaking World, 2020-21

RankInstitutionARWUQSTHEUSNWRAverage World Rank
1ETH Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) 🇨🇭206142616.5
2LMU Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) 🇩🇪5163324648
3Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne)🇨🇭8314435849.5
4Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) 🇩🇪5764425454.25
5Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München) 🇩🇪5450417655.25
6University of Zurich (Universität Zürich) 🇨🇭5669736265
(NR)Humboldt University of Berlin (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) 🇩🇪(NR)117808293
7University of Geneva (Université de Genève)🇨🇭5910614996102.5
8University of Bern (Universität Bern)🇨🇭101114109107107.75
9University of Basel (Universität Basel)🇨🇭8814992131115
(NR)Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin) 🇩🇪(NR)130118111~120
10University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) 🇩🇪10117583168131.75
11University of Bonn (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn) 🇩🇪87240114114138.75
12=University of Tübingen (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) 🇩🇪15117578180146
12=University of Göttingen (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen) 🇩🇪101195130158146
14RWTH Aachen University (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen) 🇩🇪201145107184159.25
15University of Lausanne (Université de Lausanne)🇨🇭101169191189162.5
16University of Vienna (Universität Wien) 🇦🇹151150164195165
17Dresden University of Technology (Technische Universität Dresden) 🇩🇪201173152186178
18University of Hamburg (Universität Hamburg) 🇩🇪201228135155179.75
19Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Karlsruher Institut für Technologie) 🇩🇪201131201197182.5
20University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln) 🇩🇪151282145232202.5
Table 1.

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