I read an interesting paper “Global geographies of higher education: The perspective of world university rankings” (Jöns & Hoyler,, in which authors provides a geographical analysis of world university rankings. They compared geographical clusters of universities and structural variations between Shanghai rankings (Academic Ranking of World Universities as compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University since 2003) and THE-QS rankings (The Times Higher World University Ranking as produced by QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited from 2004 to 2009) that use very different types of ranking criteria. The attached maps based on the two rankings showed some common clusters of academic excellence.
When comparing the Top 200 universities in both rankings for 2009, they found the overlap of 138 universities form four regional clusters in North America, Europe, East Asia and Australia. That’s not surprise as they locate in the core of the world economy.
Jöns, Heike, and Michael Hoyler. “Global geographies of higher education: The perspective of world university rankings.” Geoforum 46 (2013): 45-59.