In the latest edition of the THE university rankings, ETH Zurich achieved 14th place – one spot lower than last year. This ranking once again places it among the best universities in the world and at the top of the continental European universities. The University of Oxford retains top position for the fifth year in succession, with the next four places occupied by the US universities Stanford, Harvard, Caltech and MIT respectively. Tsinghua University made it into the top 20 – the first university in Asia to do so. Overall, 16 Asian universities appear among the top 100, continuing a trend that has emerged over recent years.
ETH Zurich achieved significant improvement in the “knowledge transfer” indicator. There was also a slight improvement in the frequency of citations, which indicates the influence of researchers on their peers. In contrast, ETH Zurich declined somewhat in the three criteria of international outlook (which represented the largest drop), teaching and research. The latter two categories, along with citations, represent the highest weighting in THE ranking calculations, at 30 percent each.
“ETH Zurich has seen positive developments in many of the individual metrics”, says Paul Cross from ETH Zurich Institutional Research. “But it is also important to bear in mind that improved performance does not necessarily result in higher scores. For example, ETH Zurich achieved a higher ‘Research income to academic staff’ ratio compared to last year but received a lower score due to the relative performance of other leading universities.”
ETH high placed for years
ETH Zurich also managed to hold its own among leading institutions in the two other major university rankings – the Shanghai and QS rankings: this year’s QS ranking puts ETH Zurich in sixth place, the Shanghai Ranking in 20th.
This means that ETH Zurich remains the frontrunner among all Switzerland’s institutions of higher education. THE puts EPF Lausanne in second place for Switzerland, coming in 43rd worldwide after a drop of five places.
Various approaches and methods
The university rankings consider different topics in their evaluations and weight them differently. THE and QS consider teaching (e.g. faculty–student ratio), research (e.g. publications), financial resources and personnel. A key element of their methods is surveys of industry representatives, students and researchers. In contrast, the Shanghai Ranking focuses on research. Universities are ranked on characteristics such as prestigious awards – e.g. the Nobel Prize – and frequently cited publications.