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Largest-ever world university rankings by subject show increased global competition

Several new challengers to the established global hierarchy are revealed in 2012 QS World University Rankings by Subject  the largest set of rankings of its kind ever compiled.

MIT and Harvard both top the table in 11 of the record 29 disciplines covered, ahead of Oxford (3), Stanford (3) and Cambridge (1). Yet it is the performance of universities outside of the traditional US-UK elite that provides the rankings’ main talking point.

Universities from 17 different countries make the top 20 in at least one discipline, spanning five continents: the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Brazil.

Asia accounts for around a quarter of leading institutions in engineering, mathematics, chemistry, and material sciences. University of Tokyo ranks 2nd in civil engineering, while National University of Singapore, Peking University, Hong Kong University and Kyoto University all make the top ten in at least one discipline.

“Global competition to develop research capacity and attract international talent is shaking up the established order”, says QS head of research Ben Sowter. “The financial crisis has eroded the ability of leading universities in the US and UK to monopolize world-class researchers and students”.

Continental Europe’s leading institution is ETH Zurich, ranked 4th in chemical engineering. Germany’s increased research funding through the Excellence Initiative is reflected in strong performances in science and technology, with Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München ranked 12th for physics.

“Countries in Asia, Australasia and parts of western Europe have increased their research budgets in a bid to foster innovation,” says John O’Leary. “The BRIC nations in particular have made higher education central to their plans for economic growth.”

Two Indian institutions appear for the first time in the top 30 for engineering, while China flexes its muscle with top-30 rankings in 17 disciplines. Brazil’s emergence is reflected by top-50 rankings in six subjects for the University of Sao Paolo.

Australian universities make the top ten in 11 subjects, while Toronto University is Canada’s top institution, with five top-ten rankings. 12 UK institutions make the top 20 in at least one of the 29 subjects, though only three of these universities register their best performance in a science or technology discipline.

QS World University Rankings by Subject is based on new data on research citations alongside global surveys of nearly 50,000 academics and graduate employers.


Notes for editors

QS Quacquarelli Symonds
Founded in 1990, QS Quacquarelli Symonds is the leading global provider of higher education and careers information, independent research and solutions.  Its activities span across 50 countries, working with over 2,000 international universities and business schools. QS’s mission is to enable motivated people around the world to fulfil their potential by fostering international mobility, educational achievement and career development.  QS provides services at each key career stage; first degree, Masters, PhD, MBA, and Executive-level. 

The team at QS consists of over 250 highly dedicated individuals from every corner of the world; collectively speaking 35 languages. QS is headquartered in London. Main offices: New York, Paris, Singapore, Stuttgart.  Satellite offices: Alicante, Beijing, Johannesburg, Philadelphia, Shanghai, Sydney and Washington DC

QS Intelligence Unit
QS has been conducting research in a range of areas since 1990 beginning with a global survey of MBA employers.The QS World University Rankings®, the most established of the range of research projects that QS operates, have been in existence since 2004. To meet the increasing public interest for comparative data on universities and organisations, and the growing demand for institutions to develop deeper insight into their competitive environment, the QS Intelligence Unit (QSIU) was formed in 2008 as a distinct and autonomous department. Committed to the key values of rigorous integrity, undeniable value and charismatic presentation, QSIU strives to be the most trusted independent source of global intelligence on the higher education sector.

Ben Sowter
Ben is head of research at QS. Ben is fully responsible for the operational management of all major QS research projects in the QS Intelligence Unit and is actively involved in all the collection, compilation and tabulation of all the data that lead to, amongst others the QS World University Rankings® research in which he has been involved since its initial inception in 2004.

QS World University Rankings®
The QS World University Rankings ® is an annual league table of the top 600 universities in the world and is arguably the best-known and respected ranking of its kind. Compiled by the QS Intelligence Unit in close consultation with an international advisory board of leading academics, the QS World University Rankings ® is widely referenced by prospective and current students, university professionals and governments worldwide. The purpose of the rankings has been to recognise universities as the multi-faceted organisations they are and to provide a global comparison of their success against the notional mission of remaining or becoming world-class. The rankings are based on four key pillars, research, teaching, employability and internationalisation.

QS World University Rankings® by Subjects
Designed to provide comparative information at discipline level and to highlight the excellence of institutions in specialist areas, the QS World University Rankings® by Subjects take into account the view of academics and employers and the impact of the research produced the citation per paper indicator, where applicable. Not all disciplines can be considered equal and their research activities or popularity among employers varies greatly hence a variable adaptive weighting has been applied to each criterion and to each subject. Click here to view the detailed methodology.  

For further information: Simona Bizzozero QS Head of public relations +44(0) 7880 629 856 [email protected] Vickie Chiu PR manager +44(0) 207 284 7292 [email protected]

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