Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been named the world’s best university by graduate recruiters.
And the U.S. has retained its grip on the top three places in the annual rankings, which aims to give an insight into the employability of graduates from universities around the world.
M.I.T. moves into the top slot for the first time, switching places with California Institute of Technology which slips to number two, while Harvard remains third.
And, for the first time, employers rank soft skills and digital literacy as the most important attributes in a new graduate, with academic excellence sliding down the table in a post-Covid world.
U.S. universities accounted for a quarter of all votes cast as international recruiters and managers were asked to nominate universities producing the most employable graduates, for the Global Employability University Ranking and Survey (GEURS).
While employability should not be the only reason students choose a university, the cost of higher education and the levels of debt students take on to complete a degree mean it is an increasingly important factor in their choice.
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Universities from 44 countries and regions appear in the top 250, with the U.S., the U.K. and France the best represented.
The top 10, with last year’s ranking in brackets, are:
1 (2) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (U.S.)
2 (1) California Institute of Technology (U.S.)
3 (3) Harvard University (U.S.)
4 (4) Cambridge University (U.S.)
5 (7) Stanford University (U.S.)
6 (6) Tokyo University (Japan)
7 (10) Yale University (U.S.)
8 (5) Oxford University (U.K.)
9 (9) National University of Singapore (Singapore)
10 (14) Princeton University (U.S.)
Source: Global Employability University Rankings and Survey, Top 10 universities for employability 2021
Mirroring its rise in overall university rankings, China saw all its 11 ranked universities either maintain or improve their position, with Peking University rising to a high of 15 and Tsinghua University climbing 13 places to 37.
India also performed well, with its six universities all either keeping or improving their positions, with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi holding on to 27th and Bangalore University (249th) entering the top 250 for the first time.
All of Spain’s universities in the top 250 improved their ranking, with IE University (19th) breaking into the top 20 for the first time. Seven of the U.K.’s 15 universities in the rankings fell, with just four improving their position.
Seeta Bhardwa, content editor at THE Student said choosing a university was one of the biggest decisions students would make, financially and not just educationally.
“Students and their parents want to make sure that outlay will pay off in the long run,” she said.
“This ranking provides a means to understand what’s important to graduate recruiters and help students think about what they should focus on when choosing a university to give themselves the best possible start on the career ladder.”
Recruiters rated universities in six categories, and this year saw a big change in the relative importance attached to each category.
While academic excellence was previously seen as the most important factor, recruiters this year relegated it to fifth, with soft skills and digital literacy, previously ranked fourth most crucial, taking over.
This may reflect a shift in focus post-pandemic, as Covid-19 changes not just the way we work but the qualities we value.
Sandrine Belloc, managing partner at Emerging, said the rankings aimed to address the student need to identify universities with the best employment prospects.
“It provides them with the reasons behind recruiters’ choices and shows that indicators such as digitalization, specialization or soft skills are increasingly important, much more so than the prestige of a university’s name,” she said.
*Universities are powerful drivers of social mobility, but too often the most effective universities are closed off to the most disadvantaged students, according to research published today.
The most selective universities level the playing field among their graduates and help students from low income backgrounds become high earners, according to the U.K.’s Institute of Fiscal Studies
But disadvantaged students are less likely to gain entry to the most selective institutions and more should be done to remove barriers to entry, says the report, produced with the charity the Sutton Trust.