Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are the runaway winners in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2014, published on 25 February.
Between them, the two institutions, both based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, account for 14 out of 16 top spots in science disciplines and 20 of the 30 top spots in all subjects.
Although Harvard comes out first in all life sciences and mathematics, MIT takes top spots in engineering, physics and chemistry. Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley, tops the table in environmental sciences, and Stanford University, in California, leads the field in statistics.
The top ten for most subjects in the rankings are populated by the usual suspects in the United States and the United Kingdom. Outside these regions, the most successful institution is the National University of Singapore, which clocks up eight top ten positions. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich); the University of Melbourne, Australia; and the University of Tokyo all make top tens four times.
QS, a London-based higher-education media company, compiles the rankings on the basis of a survey — aggregated over three years — of 62,000 academics and 27,000 employers, and of a measure of citations per paper, sourced from the database Scopus. They also include a score based on the h-index of faculty — a measure of both productivity and citation. The components are combined with weightings adapted by discipline to reflect employer preferences and citation patterns.
Rankings such as these have come in for criticism in recent years (see ‘University rankings ranked’) because of their methodologies and data sourcing. Despite this, they remain influential, particularly among prospective students and policy-makers.