The French government is celebrating the news that several of the country’s institutions have improved their positions in the Shanghai ranking of world universities, published on 16 August.
France now has eight institutions in the top 200, compared with six in 2006. But it still has only three in the top 100—the same as last year.
After climbing from 45th to 40th place, the University Paris Sud has overtaken the Pierre and Marie Curie University, also in Paris, as the top-ranking French institution. Pierre and Marie Curie has slipped from 39 in 2010 to 41.
The École Normale Supérieure—France’s third institution—has climbed from 71 to 69.
In the past the government has been critical of the Shanghai rankings, compiled by the Shanghai Jiatong University in China, on the grounds that the methods used to compile the international tables did not reflect the strengths of its universities.
In an interview with Les Echos, the higher education minister, Laurent Wauquiez, said the results showed the success of the reforms set in motion in 2007 by the law on the freedom and responsibilities of universities, known as the LRU.
“The noticeable progress made by France this year shows we are collecting the fruits of the efforts underway: the investments, the quality of our teachers and researchers and the structural reforms put in place by the LRU,” he said.
Wauquiez described the rise in rankings by some French institutions as significant, since the UK and Germany had seen many institutions fall or stay in the same position.
The minister revealed in the interview that the government had asked the compilers of the Shanghai rankings to recognise university clusters, or PRES, as single institutions in future assessments. These clusters are in development, following a government decision to consolidate teaching and research into a smaller number of larger campuses in a handful of French cities and towns.