David Jobbins. The University of Cambridge has retained the leading place in the 2011 annual QS World University Rankings after displacing Harvard University in 2010. But Oxford University, which was fifth last year, dropped a place as MIT continued its move up the rankings to third place. MIT was in ninth place in 2009, and fifth last year. Harvard's failure to recapture first place from Cambridge was despite its domination of the series of subject tables published by QS over the past few months. Observers attribute this to the continuing impact of the decline in staffing levels that cost it the top place in 2010.
Ben Sowter, QS head of research, said: "The gap between Cambridge and Harvard is very small, but Cambridge's superior student-faculty ratio helped tip the balance. "Individual attention is one of the key attractions of the Oxbridge tutorial system." Writing for QS, John O'Leary, former education editor of The Times, pointed out that both the 33,000-plus academics from 141 countries and the 16,785 employers responding to the surveys, had placed Harvard top. "But Cambridge's superiority on other indicators gave it the overall lead."
Universities from 38 countries appear in the top 300, and from 32 in the top 200, three up on 2010. Almost 3,000 institutions were included in the research that produced the latest rankings, with 712 featuring in the results. North America and the United Kingdom continue to dominate the rankings. US universities occupy 13 of the top 20 and 70 of the top 300 places. Despite higher rankings from McGill (up two places at 17th, the highest ranked university outside the US and the UK) and Toronto (up six to 23rd), 14 of 19 Canadian universities ranked lower than in 2010. In the UK, four universities made the top 10 and 18 were in the top 100. In 18th place, ETH Zurich remains the leading university in continental Europe, ahead of the École Normal Supérieur (33rd), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (35th) and l'Institut des Sciences et Technologies Paris (36th).
No German university makes the top 50 despite the federal government's EUR1.9 billion (US$2.7 billion) Excellence Initiative. Heidelberg and the Technische Universität München are placed 53rd and 54th respectively, trailing the leading Danish university (Copenhagen) at 52nd. The highest placed Swedish university, Uppsala, falls from 62nd to 83rd.
Australian universities again performed strongly, with all G8 universities in the top 100. The Australian National University (26th) ranked highest, with Melbourne (31st) closing the gap from 18 places to five, while Sydney is placed 38th. Top universities in Asia are also highly placed with Hong Kong University (22nd) ahead of Tokyo (25th), the National University of Singapore (28th) and Kyoto (32th). India's difficulties in making an impact continue, with the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, dropping out of the top 200. But in China, Tsinghua (47th) has joined Peking (46) in the top 50.
Ten universities are represented in the top 200 for the first time, including the Universidad Nacional Autóma de Mexico (UNAM) and the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil (169th). In 200th place King Saud University, in Saudi Arabia, makes the top 200 for the first time, with six other Middle Eastern universities in the top 300. The QS rankings are based on six indicators including surveys of more than 33,000 academics and 16,000 graduate employers. They are the second of the main international rankings to be published.
The latest Academic Ranking of World Universities, published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, appeared last month, while QS's main rival, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, are not due to appear until early October. For the first time this year the QS results are published alongside comparative data for international tuition fees here.
Nunzio Quacquarelli, QS managing director, said: "Since students are generally being charged more than ever before for their education, QS is publishing for the first time ever comparative course fees of ranked universities."