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Top Universities in the World 2014/15

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated February 13, 2017 Updated February 13, 2017

**Click here to read about the top universities in the world in 2016/17.

Today marks the release of 10th edition of the QS World University Rankings®, which uses six performance indicators to assess and compare the top universities in the world each year. Throughout the decade in which QS has been publishing the rankings, the very top the table has remained fairly stable, with just some minor shifts in position each year. Indeed, the differences between these top-ranking institutions are incredibly small; all perform impressively well across all of the assessment measures used. (To see how the top universities in the world compare on each performance indicator, visit the interactive ranking table.)

Top 10 Universities in the World

Based on the QS World University Rankings®

 

Country

Position in 2014/15

Position in 2013/14

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

US

1

1

University of Cambridge

UK

2=

3

Imperial College London

UK

2=

5

Harvard University

US

4

2

UCL (University College London)

UK

5=

4

University of Oxford

UK

5=

6

Stanford University

US

7

7

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

US

8

10

Princeton University

US

9

10

Yale University

US

10

8

 

The global spread of top universities

As this table illustrates, the top of the ranking is dominated by universities in the US and UK, which each claim half of the top 10 places. A further five US universities and two more UK entrants appear within the top 20, but beyond this the list does become much more internationally diverse. US universities account for 28 of the top 100 places, and UK universities 19 – so in fact more than half of the top universities in the world are located outside of these two nations.

Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, retaining 12th position, is the highest-ranked institution from elsewhere, followed by its country-mate Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) at 17=. Canada’s University of Toronto and McGill University place 20th and 21st respectively, with the National University of Singapore (NUS) following directly behind in 22nd. Also ranked within the global top 30 are France’s Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris (24th), Australian National University (25=) and the University of Hong Kong (28th).

South Korea, Japan, Denmark, China, Germany and the Netherlands all also have at least one representative among the top 50 universities in the world this year, while the top 100 also features universities in Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Taiwan, Belgium and New Zealand. The global top 200 universities are spread across a total of 31 countries.

Success of STEM-focused universities

Another trend reflected at the top of the table is the growing success enjoyed by universities with a focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) spectrum of subjects. This is exemplified by table-topper Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and its fellow US STEM specialist California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which has gained two places this year.

Meanwhile the UK’s Imperial College London, another STEM-focused institution, boasts the biggest leap within the top 10 universities this year, rising from 5th to share second place with the University of Cambridge.

The rankings also suggest a wider-reaching pattern of success for STEM specialists. ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne both fall into this category, meaning that STEM-focused universities account for a quarter of the top 20 places. Other science and technology-oriented institutions which have gained ground in this year’s ranking include France’s Ecole Polytechnique ParisTech (climbing six places to 35th), Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (up two places to 39th), and South Korea’s KAIST (rising nine places to reach 51st).

As Danny Byrne writes in this year’s supplement to the rankings, it seems universities focusing on science and technology subjects have been particularly successful at meeting the challenge of balancing “research excellence with small sizes and comprehensive internationalization”.

This article was originally published in September 2014 . It was last updated in February 2017

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Written by

The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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