Cambridge has retained its premier status in the QS World University Rankings, beating Harvard for a second year, as UK and US institutions again took the top 10 spots. Latin America figured badly with only six ranked in the 300 universities reviewed, the best in position 169.
The rankings featured six US establishments, with the remainder coming from Britain. Yale University slipped one place to fourth, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology rose to third from fifth. Oxford moved up one spot to fifth, ahead of Imperial College of London and University College London.
“There’s not much in it but British universities have the edge on international indicators, particularly international faculty the proportion of staff who are from overseas” said Ben Sowter, head of research for the QS intelligence unit. “It’s a relevant factor.”
Harvard, the world’s richest university, had headed the QS rankings every year from 2004 until last year, when the provider of information to educational establishments stopped compiling the list with Times Higher Education. The U.S. institution took the top spot in the magazine’s own ranking last year.
The US took 13 of the top 20 places and 70 of the top 300. The superior student/faculty ratio at Cambridge helped to tip the British institution into first place, according to Ben Sowter, who praised the individual attention offered by Oxbridge universities.
The QS rankings are an annual league table of the top 600 universities in the world, devised by surveying each institution’s reputation among academics and employers. The respondents are asked how they view each university’s research output. More than 34,000 academics were surveyed this year.
“While university league tables tend to over-simplify the rang of achievements at institutions, it is particularly pleasing to note that the excellence of the transformative research, research that changes people’s lives, carried out at Cambridge is so well regarded by fellow academics worldwide,” Steve Young, senior pro-vice chancellor at Cambridge, said in an e-mailed statement.
Cambridge, the UK richest university according to a Financial Times report in September, may face pressure on its top ranking as the UK government makes changes to higher- education funding, Sowter said.
The government is allowing British universities to treble tuition fees to as much as £9,000 (14,600 dollars) as it tries to reduce state funding to the institutions, part of an austerity drive to cut a budget deficit.
“If they’ve got less money for research then it will have an impact” on Cambridge’s ranking, Sowter said. “I think you will see a more profound effect on UK universities further down the list.”
Harvard charges overseas students an average of 38,000 to 40,000 dollars a year, while Cambridge charges overseas students 18,000 to 20,000 dollars a year, according to QS research.
“Cambridge in an international comparison still looks good value for money,” Sowter, a University of Nottingham graduate, said.
Canada’s McGill University was the highest placed outside of the US and UK at 17th, one ahead of Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which retained its 18th spot. The University of Hong Kong was once again the highest ranking Asian university, moving up one spot to 22nd. The following was Tokyo University, ranked 25.
In Latin America, the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil and UNAM of Mexico ranked 169, followed by Campinas, Brazil, 235; Chile’s Catholic and National University figure in positions 250 and 262, while the University of Buenos Aires ranks 270.
The average age of the top 100 institutions has dropped seven years since last year’s rankings, “reflecting the emergence of newer specialist institutions particularly in Asia,” QS said in a statement. (The complete ranking at QS World University Rankings 2011/12)