Top rankings in 15 disciplines

In the latest QS rankings by subject, ETH Zurich was among the top ten in 15 different disciplines. The university remains the global leader in earth sciences.
ETH Zurich is number one in Earth Sciences for the sixth consecutive time. (Image: ETH Zürich / Gian Marco Castelberg)

In the summer of 2020, ETH Zurich again took sixth place in the QS World University Rankings, which compares universities around the world. ETH Zurich succeeded in retaining its title as the best university in continental Europe. Recently, QS published a version of its rankings that evaluates individual disciplines, rather than universities overall. Here, too, ETH Zurich has performed strongly: the university ranks among the top ten in 15 different disciplines, and has taken the absolute top spots again in Earth & Marine Sciences, Geology and Geophysics.

Third-best centre of education in the world

The QS rankings by discipline not only awarded high marks to ETH Zurich as an institution but also to Switzerland overall as a centre of education: A total of 29 Swiss university programmes rank among the top ten in their respective fields. Despite being a smaller country, Switzerland offers six percent of all top-ten education programmes in the world. Only the United Kingdom (26%) and the United States (47%) have a higher concentration of outstanding departments. Switzerland’s 29 top-ranking programmes are dispersed among 12 different universities, with over half of them at ETH Zurich.

“We are proud that ETH Zurich and Switzerland’s universities consistently rank so highly and in such a wide range of disciplines,” says ETH Zurich President Joël Mesot. “This success is not least owing to the outstanding overall conditions and direct investment made in the areas of research, teaching and knowledge transfer – which Switzerland has been doing for decades,” explains Mesot.

About the QS World University Rankings by Subject

The QS World University Rankings has been published since 2004; in 2011 it was expanded to include rankings by individual disciplines as well. In the latter, QS compares the individual university programmes offered by 1,440 universities. These fall into a total of 51 different disciplines and are assessed according to four indicators. Compared to other rankings systems, the QS World University Rankings places particular emphasis on the reputation an academic discipline enjoys in expert circles. Depending on the subject area, this factor makes up between 30 and 90 percent of the total result. The evaluation also factors in employer surveys on the skills exhibited by graduates from different universities (5 to 50 percent) as well as the number of citations per publication (0 to 30 percent). The last key indicator, known as the h-index, makes up 0 to 30 percent of the calculation. This index aims to measure how productive individual researchers or groups of researchers are and how much influence their publications have, based on the number of their most frequently cited publications as well as the number of times these are cited in other publications.