The University of São Paulo (USP) has fallen in the Times Higher Education (THE) world reputation rankings for science. Last year, USP was ranked between 61st and 70th position, whereas this year the university has fallen to between 81st and 90th.

Harvard University remains in first place in the rankings. Despite the fall, USP is the only South American university to appear in the top hundred.

The Times’ reputation rankings are based upon the subjective opinions of 10,500 scientists from all over the world, each of whom are able to cite up to 15 institutions excelling in their field of interest.

The reputation rankings are a spin-off of the principal list, which takes into account objective factors such as the scientific production of the universities in question.

The most complete study was published last October and was also bad news for USP, which fell out of the top 200.

For Phil Baty, the editor of the rankings, the problem is that even in academic areas where it is strong; USP is not a well-known international institution. It has little repute in Asia, for example, an increasingly important region in the context of scientific research.

Baty argues that unless “significant action” is taken, USP will continue to fall in future rankings. According to THE, a strong international reputation is ‘essential’ if the university is to attract good professionals, students, investors and scientific partners.


USP’s press secretary stated that the institution created last week an agency devoted to increasing national and international cooperation, which will seek improvements in teaching, research and in extension courses.

In an interview with Folha in January, USP’s new rector Marco Antonio Zago said that international rankings are useful to check on the general situation of the university, but that short-term variations really say little about the quality of academic activities.

“There are statistical errors. A fall from one year to the next doesn’t necessarily mean that the university is getting worse,” he said. “USP’s position is always very good. Close to 10,000 university are assessed, so to be within the first 100 or 150 is very good.”

He also pointed out that the top ranking universities are all significantly smaller than USP. Harvard, for example, has 21,000 students, compared to USP’s 90,000.