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First-ever QS World University Rankings for Physics and Environmental Sciences point to future leaders in sustainable technology

London 19th May 2011


QS Quacquarelli Symonds, compiler of the annual QS World University Rankings®, has revealed today the results of the first QS World University Rankings® in Environmental Sciences and Physics on http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2011/subject-rankings


·         For Physics, Cambridge takes top spot, with Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley and Oxford making up the top five. ETH Zurich, Tokyo University, Melbourne University, ENS Paris, University of British Columbia and National University of Singapore all feature in the top twenty.

·         For Environmental Sciences, Harvard tops the ranking with UC Berkeley, MIT, Cambridge and Stanford making up the top five. Australian National University takes the 10th spot whilst Tokyo University (12th) is the best Asian university and ETH Zurich (13th) is the top Continental European university.

Universities are ranked based on academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations per paper which makes up thirty percent of the score in both Physics and Environmental Sciences.


Cambridge’s table-topping performance in physics was helped by influential research into the use of graphene to develop sustainable alternatives to batteries, and lightweight components for cars and planes. The work was among the most highly cited physics research according to the Scopus citations database, and has helped secure a €1 billion EU research grant. Cambridge was also rated number one for academic reputation in physics by the international academic community, and was judged by graduate employers to be the best university for producing high-calibre physics graduates. 


The first-ever QS ranking for Environmental Sciences shows the international nature of the rush to develop green alternatives, with universities from sixteen different countries in the top 50. Harvard leads a group of nine US-UK universities at the top of the table, but Australia National University (10), University of Tokyo (12), ETH Zurich (13) and University of British Columbia (11) all rank highly. The presence of China’s Peking University at 22nd reflects the country’s new emphasis on green research, with Wen Jiabao last year announcing ambitious reduction targets of 40-45% emission per unit of GDP by 2020.


In addition to Environmental Sciences and Physics, the best-performing universities in Metallurgy and Materials, Mathematics, Earth and Marine Sciences and Chemistry are also revealed today on www.topuniversities.com




Top ranked university by country (rank) in Top 50 for Physics

Top ranked university by country (rank) in Top 50 for Environmental Sciences

United Kingdom

Cambridge University (1st)

Cambridge University (3rd)

United States

Harvard University (2nd)

Harvard University (1st)


ETH Zurich (10th)

ETH Zurich (13th)


University of Tokyo (11th)

University of Tokyo (12th)


Melbourne University (14th)

Australia National University (10th)


ENS Paris (16=)

Université Grenoble, Joseph Fourier (42nd=)


University of British Columbia (18th)

University of British Columbia (11th)


National University of Singapore (20th =)

National University of Singapore (14th =)


LMU Muenchen (21st)



Peking University (27th)

Peking University (22nd)

South Korea

Seoul National University (38=)

Seoul National University(42nd=)


Trinity College Dublin (49th=)


Hong Kong

Hong Kong University of Science & technology (50th)

University of Hong Kong (33rd)

New Zealand


University of Auckland (34th=)



Lund University (39th=)



Wageningen University (41st)



Source: QS Quacquarelli Symonds 2011 (www.topuniversities.com)


Ben Sowter, head of research at QS says, “The fact that universities from 16 different countries feature in the top 50 of our QS Rankings in Environmental Sciences and Physics highlights the globally competitive nature of today’s multidisciplinary research which can lead to innovative patents, creating enormous commercial benefits for the countries involved, as well as solving pressing environmental issues and enabling sustainable economic growth for future generations.”


Over 50,000,000 people have viewed the QS World University Rankings in the past 12 months, and the QS Global Academic Advisory Board has developed the inaugural QS World University Rankings by subject in response to a demand for more granular detail. Universities are ranked based on academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations, with weightings tailored to each subject.


Click here for full methodology



QS Quacquarelli Symonds

Since 1990, QS has become established as the world’s leading network for top careers and education. Producers of the QS World University Rankings®, QS’s innovative research, events, publications and university solutions provide new ways of bringing universities into contact with the best and brightest students worldwide.


QS World University Rankings®

Now in their 7th edition, 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. 

For further information: Simona Bizzozero Head of PR +44 (0) 207 284 7248 +44 (0)7880 620 856 [email protected] Vickie Chiu PR Manager +44 (0) 207 284 7292 [email protected]

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