Ranking of Universities in the European Union, 2021

*The flag of the European Union.
RankInstitutionChange from 2020ARWUQSTHEUSNWRAverage World Rank
URParis Sciences et Lettres (PSL) University ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท NA384440NR~ 40.67
URKarolinska Institute ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ชNA42NR394843
๐Ÿฅ‡Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช4864324647.5
๐ŸฅˆTechnical University of Munich ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช5250387453.5
๐Ÿฅ‰Heidelberg University ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช5763425454
4Sorbonne University ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท+13572884660.25
5University of Copenhagen ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ-13079963760.5
6Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช+18770424861.75
7University of Amsterdam ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ-110155653864.75
8Paris-Saclay University ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ทNA13861176069
9Utrecht University ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ-150110694869.25
URCharitรฉ – Universitรคtsmedizin Berlin ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ชNANRNR73NR73
10Leiden University ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ83112718287
11Wageningen University & Research ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ+2101123538089.25
12University of Groningen ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ-164128808890
URHumboldt University of Berlin ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ชNANR1287478~ 93.33
13University of Helsinki ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ-4821041019495.25
14Ghent University ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช-2711419692100
URFree University of Berlin ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ชNANR1278395~ 101.67
15Erasmus University Rotterdam ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ1011797262103.5
16Aarhus University ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ71155104103108.25
17Uppsala University ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช-378124131113111.5
18Lund University ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช-11518711695112.25
19Delft University of Technology ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ-11515775174114.25
20Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ10120911584127.25
Figure 1. Ranking of universities in the European Union for the year 2021.

This is a ranking of the top 20 universities in the European Union ranked relative to each other by average world rank for the year 2021.

Overview and methodology

The ranking was created by averaging ranking placements from the four prominent rankings of world universities (each ranking released in 2021): 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 EU university ranked on each of 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, as shown above. The leftmost column shows the final rank (which is relative placement based on average rank, i.e.). The next, institution, column shows the institution ranked along with the flag of the country in which it is located. The next, change from 2020, column shows the distance moved for each institution compared to the 2020 ranking. 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 (โ€œAverage World Rankโ€) averages the four ranking listsโ€™ rank placement for each university. 

Only universities which were ranked on all four lists are counted. Universities which would have appeared had they been ranked by all the rankings are displayed in the ranking where they would have ranked if their average rank was the result of an average across all four rankings. Thus, for example, Humboldt University of Berlin is shown between the 14th and 15th ranked universities, as it would have ranked 15th if it appeared on all four rankings (and maintained its average from the ranking it did appear on). Rather than receiving a ranking placement, universities appearing in these positions are marked “UR” (unrankable) in the rank column, and “NR” (not ranked) in rankings lists in which they were not ranked.


  • German universities take the top three spots (again).
  • Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) University would have placed 1st. It had roughly the 41st ranking placement in the world; yet it is still unranked by USNWR, and thus does not qualify. See more about this here.
  • Meanwhile, Karolinska Institute would have placed 2nd, with a 43 average (unranked by QS).
  • The Netherlands has the most universities appearing in the top 20, with 8. The Nordic countries, together, have 5. Belgium and France each have two. No other countries make the top 20.
  • Wageningen University & Research advanced the most places compared to any university which made the list in 2020 and 2021, moving up to 11th from 13th.
  • Paris-Saclay University debuts for the first time in the top 20, at 8. This marks the largest advancement of any university on the list.
  • University of Helsinki has moved downward the most places compared to last year, moving out of the top 10, to 13th.
  • Overall, European Union universities have advanced in world university rankings in 2021. Whereas last year ranked EU universities average sum came out to 1768.25 (2020), this year the sum is 1679 (2021) — a roughly 90 place difference upward. One major contributor to this upward movement is the appearance of Paris-Saclay University at #8. Last year, it was not even near the top 20.
  • The top 14 EU universities all average within the top 100 worldwide.
  • Just one EU university — LMU Munich — averages within the top 50 worldwide.
  • THE best predicts the summed average.
  • QS worst predicts the summed average.

In my opinion, global university rankings are not a measure of how “good” a university is. They are, centrally, a measure of university reputation among people in administrative positions in academics. How good a university is for you depends on what your goals are. It is almost entirely contextual. Thus, the rankings I do — which are based on average placements in world university rankings — ought to be seen not as a measure of how good a university is, but as a measure of the average opinion of an academic administrator you’ll get if you ask them to talk about a given university from a global perspective. In this spirit, I offer you a deflationary university ranking.

*The header image used in the article is, to the best of my knowledge, in the public domain. If this is in error, please let me know and I will remove it immediately. To report errors, please email me at tuulifunctional@snmcgannon.com.

Permalink to this article: https://snmcgannon.com/2021/10/28/ranking-of-universities-in-the-european-union-2021/