Every year rankings are published that list Oxford, Stanford and the like at the top, while many(most?) universities in continental europe share ranks well beyond 100. I myself am a Phd student at a technical university in Austria that is ranked somewhere beyond 300 and I don't quite understand what makes the difference.
Some things that occupy my mind:
- Like my own many european universities are free to enroll, which means a lot of candidates and also unfortunately many drop-outs (especially in STEM), which affects the score negatively as I understand. I assume that top-universities, that rely heavily on expensive enrollment fees, take more action to keep their students. Am I correct in this assumption?
- Do top universites have simply more money to make better research?
- Are the people there actually much smarter? Is there a different mindset that leads to more/better research? A fellow student of mine who spent some time in the USA told me that the people there are not "more knowledgeable" than us here in our bad university but I don't know which university it was.
We do have a lot of satisfied business partners here so I don't think our research is "bad". On the other hand my kinsmen always say "those rankings are arbitrary bullshit anyway", and Austrians like to sugarcoat reality a lot. We often hear some self-praise about how our institutions are well regarded but then there are those rankings, wich makes me very doubtful. I've only ever seen this small academic world of mine as I never had the chance to study abroad because of my family so I am hoping that someone who knows both sides can shed some light. Am I missing a chance to become so much more than I currently am because I'm at the wrong university?