Apparently geeks really do rule. For the fourth year in a row, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the No. 1 university in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings 2015/2016. While MIT clearly remains the king of the academic hill, the difference between first and fifth place on the top 10 universities list is barely two points out of 100.
Breakdown of the QS top 10 universities rankings
MIT earned a dead solid perfect 100 score to finish in first place in this year’s top global universities rankings, but to show you how close things were, the next three universities on the list all had scores above 98.5.
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Past first-place winner Harvard University was in second again this year with a score of 98.7, and the UK’s Cambridge University moved up to third, together with California’s Stanford University as they both had scores of 98.6.
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) was ranked in fifth place in the 2015 top 10 universities list, just below the third place finishers with a score of 97.9.
Britain’s venerable Oxford University managed to hold on to sixth place of the top global universities list, putting up a score of 97.7.
Another UK institution, University College London (UCL), was awarded seventh place on the top colleges list this year. UCL was awarded a score of 97.2.
Imperial College London (ICL) continued a strong run to finish at eighth place on the 2015 top global universities rankings, putting up a strong score of 96.1.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) came in ninth this year, with a more than respectable net score of 95.5.
The pride of the Midwest and the Windy City, the University of Chicago, rounded out the QS 2015 top 10 universities list at tenth place, with a score of 94.6.
Of note, four out of the top five and five of the top 10 universities on this year’s list are based in the United States.
QS World University Rankings 2015/2016 methodology
The QS World University Rankings are based on a score calculated using six weighted factors:
1. Academic reputation (40%)
Academic reputation is measured via a global survey where academics are asked to identify the institutions where they believe the best work is currently taking place within their field.
The 2015/2016 rankings are based on 76,800 responses worldwide collected over a five year period. Participants’ most recent responses awee used, and they cannot vote for their own institution. Regional weightings are also used to prevent discrepancies in response rates. This factor represents a notable 40% of the total score of each university.
2. Employer reputation (10%)
The employer reputation indicator is based on a survey involving over 44,200 responses for the 2015/16 edition. The survey asks employers to identify the universities they believe are generating the best graduates.
The main purpose of the employer survey is to give students a better sense of how universities are seen in the jobs market. A higher weighting is given for institutions outside of their own country, so this factor is especially useful for prospective students looking to find universities with an international reputation.
3. Student-to-faculty ratio (20%)
The student-to-faculty ratio is simply a baseline comparison of the number of academic staff relative to the number of students enrolled. Since there is no generally accepted international standard for measuring teaching quality, this indicator highlights universities that are likely to provide small class sizes and a good bit of individual attention.
4. Citations per faculty (20%)
Citations per faculty is commonly accepted today as a reasonable facsimile of the research influence of an institution. The general consensus is that the more often research is cited, the more influential it is. By extension, the more highly cited research papers published by the faculty at an institution, the stronger its research reputation.
QS gets its data on citations per faculty using Scopus, which is the largest global database of research abstracts and citations. QS looks at the latest five complete years of data, and the total citation count is assessed in relation to the number of academic faculty members, so that larger institutions do not have an unfair advantage.
5 & 6. International faculty ratio (5%) and international student ratio (5%)
The final two factors help assess how successful a university has been in attracting students and top flight academics from other countries. These factors are calculated based on the proportion of international students and faculty members at each institution. Both the international student and the international faculty factors each contribute 5% to the overall rankings.