All Harvard graduates become successful

University Rankings: Why US Universities Are So Successful

No country dominates an industry as much as the United States dominates universities. According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities at Jiao Tong University ("Shanghai Ranking"), 17 of the 20 best universities in the world are in the USA, led by Harvard University, which is clearly in first place.

The traditional explanation for this phenomenon - America's wealth, its large population, generous research funding, widespread private philanthropy, and the attraction it has for scholars around the world - is incomplete.

Innovative leadership model

Although the US is the largest economy in the world, it only accounts for a quarter of world GDP and around a twentieth of the world's population. And their support for research isn't unique.

Following the accepted explanation, large countries like France, Germany, Japan and even China and India should be at the top of global university rankings. However, they rarely appear anywhere in such rankings, if at all. Indeed, these countries are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle: America's innovative model of leadership in higher education.

Too elitist, too exclusive, too expensive

Harvard was founded as a public body by the Massachusetts Bay Colony authorities in 1636. The value of the University for Massachusetts is evident in the state constitution, which was passed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts after the United States' Declaration of Independence in 1780 and contains a section on the tasks and limits of the university.

When the Massachusetts Parliament was dominated by Harvard graduates, the university received support and attention. However, when mass immigration began in the 1840s as a result of the great famine in Ireland, the demographic balance in the state shifted and populists took control of the legislature.

Within a very short space of time, Harvard was accused of being too elitist, too exclusive and too expensive. Even the curriculum was challenged.

Over the next twenty years, the state increasingly hampered the work of the university, for example by refusing to release funds and resisting the appointment of professors. This behavior peaked in 1862 when the legislature blocked the appointment of a university president.

In the hands of alumni

In response, Harvard called for "to be placed out of the reach of political controversy and change" and "in the hands of alumni who care most about teaching."