Iowa research universities slip in U.S. News global rankings


HR King
May 29, 2001
In new international university rankings out Tuesday comparing an expanding number of research institutions and their scholarly impact across multiple disciplines, both of Iowa’s ranked universities continued to lose ground — with Iowa State University sliding 26 spots.

The University of Iowa fell six spots to No. 180 from last year’s No. 174 — 27 spots below its 2018 ranking at No. 153, according to the U.S. News & World Report list, which is in its ninth year.

ISU’s 26-spot drop — in the same year it left the prestigious research-focused Association of American Universities — took it from No. 237 to No. 263. ISU sits 59 spots below its 2018 ranking of No. 204 worldwide.


The “2022-2023 Best Global Universities Rankings” are based entirely on measures of a school’s academic research reputation and publications, and not on factors considered for its best U.S. colleges list — like acceptance, graduation and performance rates.

“These types of data are not part of the best global universities rankings because such student- and school-specific data can't be compared internationally,” according to an explanation of U.S. News’ methodology. “Data that measures aspects of the undergraduate and graduate experience either is not available … or the data is not available in a uniform way that could be used to make international comparisons.”

ISU — which had seen mostly single-digit losses in the global rankings annually since 2018 — recorded its 26-spot slide just months after becoming one of only five institutions ever to withdraw from the esteemed Association of American Universities.

The AAU is an invitation-only member group of North America’s most elite comprehensive research universities, which was founded in 1900 and today boasts 65 members — including the UI.

Although ISU didn’t answer specific questions about whether its decision in April to leave the association preempted a removal being forced by the organization. The AAU has a “membership review committee” and ISU officials said that “Indicators used by AAU to rank its members have begun to favor institutions with medical schools and associated medical research funding.”

“Iowa State remains notable in several important areas not prioritized by the AAU, such as affordability, student engagement, student retention, post-graduation employment, first-generation students and accessibility,” according to ISU’s April announcement.

The global U.S. News rankings consider feedback from reputational surveys aggregated from 2018 to 2022; papers published from 2016 to 2020; and citations to those papers through June 2022.

The list ranks 2,000 institutions from 95 countries, up from last year’s 1,750 from 90 countries.

U.S. News calculated scores and ranked institutions based on 13 indicators and weights, affording global and regional research reputation a hefty quarter of the total score.

Publications, conferences and citations then account for more than 30 percent, with citation amount and collaboration accounting in some form for the balance.

This year’s overall rankings included 338 institutions in China, which for the first time topped the United States for number of ranked institutions — hitting at one of the reasons some give for massive losses in international enrollment in the United States.

The UI, for example, is reporting 1,735 international students this fall, down from last fall’s 1,890 and down 62 percent from the 4,540 in fall 2015. Where UI counted 2,797 students from China that year, it was reporting 504 this fall.

Although COVID-19 and other factors have played into the losses, some experts have reported China’s increase in its own top-ranked universities as one of many reasons fewer students are leaving that country for postsecondary education.

The United States, in this year’s global rankings, came in second with 280 listed universities, followed by Japan with 105, the United Kingdom with 92 and India with 81.

Like last year, this year’s top 20 included 15 U.S. schools, four from the U.K. and one from Canada.

“In many countries, postsecondary educational attainment has skyrocketed over the last two decades,” according to U.S. News. It reported that among the 38 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the percent of 25-to-34-year-olds with a postsecondary credential jumped from 27 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2021.

This year’s global rankings, like in years past, rate universities in specific subject areas — with both the UI and ISU making gains and seeing losses on various lists.

ISU, for example, fell from No. 372 to No. 407 in biology and biochemistry; from No. 725 to No. 763 in clinical medicine; and from No. 174 to No. 217 in economics and business.

Some of ISU’s best global rankings came in agriculture sciences, bumping up one to No. 31; plant and animal science, ranking No. 32; and food science, ranking No. 79.

The UI fell from No. 557 to No. 594 in chemistry; from No. 188 to No. 257 in pharmacology and toxicology; and from No. 188 to No. 212 in economics and business.

It made gains in microbiology, from No. 170 to No. 109; in physics from No. 176 to No. 146; and in cell biology, from No. 227 to No. 195.