Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions

pp 1-7

Date: Latest Version

World-Class Universities

  • Jamil SalmiAffiliated withDiego Portales University Email author 
  • , Philip G. AltbachAffiliated withCenter for International Higher Education, Boston College


Elite universities; Flagship universities; Top-ranked universities


Top universities operating at the cutting edge of intellectual and scientific development at the global level.

Defining World-Class Universities

Within the higher education system, research universities play a critical role in training the professionals, high-level specialists, scientists, and researchers needed by the economy and in generating new knowledge in support of the national innovation system (World Bank 2002). In this context, an increasingly pressing priority of many governments is to make sure that their top universities are considered as “world-class,” meaning that they actually operate at the cutting edge of intellectual and scientific development, as recognized by the global rankings. This discussion focuses exclusively on research-intensive universities, a small but very important part of any nation’s higher education system. These universities produce most of the research, are heavily in ...

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