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Tech Schools Dominate Rankings

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Led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), tech schools worldwide are on the rise in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings. Laura Bridgestock examines this global trend.

MIT, which takes the top spot in the rankings for the first time, is closely followed by the UK’s Imperial College London (6), the US’ Caltech (10), and Switzerland’s ETH Zurich (13).

These relatively well-established names (all more than 100 years old) are joined slightly further down the list by a growing cohort of young, fast-rising science and technology institutes, many based in Asia.

On the way up: Asia’s young tech institutes

QS head of research Ben Sowter has linked the rise of MIT to a more global shift towards science and technology, identifying a “new wave of cutting-edge tech-focused institutions” in Asia.

Among the most prominent examples of this are Hong Kong’s HKUST (33) and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (47), both just 21 years old.

Meanwhile the largest climb in the top 100 comes from Korea’s KAIST, which leaps an impressive 27 places to rank 63rd, driven by strong improvements in the indicators for academic reputation, employer reputation and citations per faculty member.

One of the most impressive aspects of these young Asian tech-focused universities is the rapidity with which they’ve established themselves in the eyes of both academics and employers.

While high levels of funding, favorable policies and good marketing can often help new universities make fast progress in indicators such as faculty/student ratio and numbers of international staff and students, it generally takes much longer to convince academics and employers of the quality of research and teaching being provided.

Yet this is exactly what tech-focused institutes like HKUST, NTU and KAIST have managed to do. All now rank in the world’s top 70 in the global academic survey, and all in the top 200 in the employer survey (NTU in the top 50).

Greater global diversity, across all subjects

This is fantastic news for those considering studying a science or technology subject, meaning growing numbers of top-tier tech institutes to choose from, in a wider selection of countries.

However, the particularly rapid rise of these institutions is just one aspect in a broader pattern of change across the global higher education landscape.

Since 2004, when the QS World University Rankings were first published, the number of countries with institutions included in the ranking has been growing – this year a record 72 nations are represented.

That growth has certainly not just come from universities excelling in science and technology.

In fact, a look at this year’s global academic survey results by faculty area shows that the most diverse top 400 is in fact in arts and humanities, where 53 different countries are represented.

This compares to 50 for engineering and technology, 49 for social sciences and management, 48 for life sciences and 47 for natural sciences.

So while science and tech students are likely to be especially cheered by this year’s rankings results, you certainly don’t have to limit your subject choice in order to benefit from the growing global diversity of the world’s top universities.

Written by Laura G.

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