17 Sep 2015   |   News

Swiss universities rise up world rankings, while UK slips down

The annual QS league table shows Asian institutes are making big gains. Meanwhile, Reuters launches its inaugural rankings, where universities with particular emphasis on science and technology score high

UK universities just about hold on to their position as the toast of Europe but are facing strong competition from Swiss and Asian rivals, according to world league tables published this week.

The QS World Universities 2015/16 rankings, looked upon as one of the most authoritative of its kind, saw Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retain its top spot in the global league table for the fourth year running, with Harvard rising up from 4th to 2nd and overtaking Cambridge University, which sits joint third with Stanford.

Imperial College London, which was placed joint second last year, slipped to eighth, while Oxford University and University College London also fell in the ranking.

Switzerland’s ETH Zurich enters the top 10 for the first time this year, while its sister institute, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), is not far behind, climbing three places to 14th.

The top ranked in France is the École Normale Supérieure (ENS Paris), in 23rd place. In Ireland, there was a further dip, with Trinity College Dublin down from 71st to 78th, and University College Dublin from 139th to 154th. 

China’s top ranked institution, Tsinghua University, climbs 22 places to rank 25th, while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology gains 12 positions to 28th. The National University of Singapore jumped 26 places, from 39th to 13th.

After the US, UK, Switzerland and Singapore, the highest entry is claimed by Australia, with the Australian National University in joint 19th.

A university's strengths in research, teaching, academic reputation, staff to student ratio and the number of international staff and students all influence the rankings. 

Before this year, QS rankings rewarded institutions strong in research, meaning those with medical faculties could always expect top billing, but this year’s rankings adopted a modified methodology, so as to provide “fairer evaluations for universities with a strong profile in areas with lower research activity, such as arts, humanities and social sciences”.

“These latest results reveal more diversity than ever in the distribution of world-class universities at the highest levels,” said QS head of research Ben Sowter. One noticeable beneficiary was the London School of Economics and Political Science, which climbed from 71 to 35.

A total of 82 countries are represented in the table, with the largest shares claimed by the US (154), UK (71), Germany (43) and France (41). Japan has 38 entries, Australia 33, China 30, Canada and Italy 26 apiece, Brazil 22 and Russia 21.

London is the only city in the world with four universities in the top 50; Boston and New York have three, and Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing all have two.

Inaugural Reuters ranking

In another league table published this week, all but one university in the top ten - the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology - hails from the US. Stanford edges MIT into second place, with Harvard University third, in the inaugural ‘Top 100 Most Innovative Universities’, compiled by Reuters. 

In this ranking, which is based on journal publishing and patents data, Imperial College London is the highest-ranked European university, in 11th place, followed by Belgium's KU Leuven (16), Cambridge University (25), EPFL (27) and Oxford University (40).  

As seen also in QS, the Reuters ranking reflects strong competition from Asian rivals. South Korea has eight schools in the top 100 universities, while Japan has nine, more than any other country apart from the US. China has only one entry on the list, Tsinghua University, ranked 72nd, almost 50 places lower than its QS ranking. 

Controlling for size, Switzerland, with a population of eight million people, is the stand-out performer, with three universities on the list.

Reuters claims that the use of publishing and patenting data, “gets to the essence of what it means to be truly innovative”. The institutions in the table most reliably produce original research, create useful technology, and have the greatest economic impact, making them, “the surest bets for anyone seeking to invest in and create real innovation.”

Ranking is based on 10 patent and research-related metrics, including the volume and impact of scientific research, the volume and success of patent filings and the use of cited discoveries in the academic and corporate worlds.

Unlike QS, which compiles additional tables for five faculty areas – arts and humanities, engineering and technology, life sciences and medicine, natural sciences, and social sciences and management – Reuters only collected data on a university-wide scale. This means that while “a small liberal arts school might rank low for overall innovation, [it could] still operate one of the most innovative computer science departments in the world.”

The other main global ranking tables for universities are the Times Higher Education World University Ranking, which is due next month, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities, better known as the Shanghai rankings.

Reuters Top 100: http://www.reuters.com/most-innovative-universities.

The Reuters Top 100: The World’s Most Innovative Universities

1          Stanford University
2          Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3          Harvard University
4          University of Washington
5          University of Michigan System
6          Northwestern University
7          University of Texas System
8          University of Wisconsin System
9          University of Pennsylvania
10         Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST)
11         Imperial College London
12         Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH)
13         University of California System
14         University of Southern California
15         University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
16         KU Leuven
17         Duke University
18         Osaka University
19         Johns Hopkins University
20         California Institute of Technology
21         University of Illinois System
22         Kyoto University
23         Georgia Institute of Technology
24         University of Tokyo
25         University of Cambridge
26         Princeton University
27         Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
28         University of Colorado System
29         Ohio State University
30         University of Pittsburgh
31         Seoul National University
32         Purdue University System
33         Cornell University
34         Tufts University
34         Vanderbilt University
36         Yonsei University
37         Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
38         University of Toronto
39         Tohoku University
40         University of Oxford
41         University of Utah
42         University of Minnesota System
43         Technical University of Denmark
44         Yale University
45         Columbia University
46         Oregon Health & Science University
47         Baylor College of Medicine
48         Emory University
49         Indiana University System
50         Technical University of Munich
51         Tokyo Institute of Technology
52         University of Erlangen Nuremberg
53         University of Zurich
54         University System of Maryland
55         University of Arizona
56         Carnegie Mellon University
57         University of Massachusetts System
58         Keio University
59         Boston University
60         University of Rochester
61         University of Munich
62         Hanyang University
63         Florida State University System
64         Pierre & Marie Curie University - Paris 6
65         Ghent University
66         Sungkyunkwan University
67         University of British Columbia
68         North Carolina State University
69         University of London
70         Penn State University
71         University of Chicago
72         Tsinghua University
73         Delft University of Technology
74         University of Virginia
75         Tel Aviv University
76         Technion Israel Institute of Technology
77         University of Freiburg
78         Wake Forest University
79         University of Paris Sud - Paris XI
80         University of Paris Descartes - Paris V
81         Kyushu University
82         Case Western Reserve University
83         University of Alabama System
84         Joseph Fourier University
84         Korea University
86         Arizona State University
86         Gwangju Institute of Science & Technology
88         University of Strasbourg
89         Nagoya University
90         University of Claude Bernard - Lyon 1
91         Rutgers State University
92         Erasmus University Rotterdam
93         State University of New York (SUNY) System
94         National University of Singapore
95         University of Manchester
96         Free University of Berlin
97         University of Aix-Marseille
98         Hokkaido University
99         University of Montpellier
100       Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

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