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French universities hold their place in global Shanghai rankings

France's Minister of Higher Education and Research Geneviève Fioraso
France's Minister of Higher Education and Research Geneviève Fioraso Jacques Demarthon/AFP

The annual prestigious Shanghai university rankings have placed 21 of the world's top 500 universities in France, an uptick of one institution from last year.

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France has four institutions in the top 100, led by the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, which was ranked 35th.

But US universities continue to dominate the top 20 with Harvard topping the rankings for the 12th year running.

“What we know is that this ranking was made for the Anglo-Saxon system. Why? Because it measures research performance, divided by the number of students,” Geneviève Fioraso, the Minister of Higher Education and Research, told radio station France-Inter. “But in the United States and in the United Kingdom, research universities are rather small and very selective.”

The Shanghai ranking criteria includes the number of Nobel prizes among former students and the number of most cited researchers in their discipline.

But it has been criticized in the past because it does not take into account the quality of education or employability of students.

France – whose institutions are less selective than their US counterparts – has recently announced it is working on its own system of university ranking.

Fioraso says the rankings are well regarded internationally but that the quality of research is what should be measured.

“The summer has been great for science in France. The Fields Medal was awarded to French-Brazilian researcher Arthur Avila,” she said. “That's what’s important, that we are excellent at research.

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