Published: 10.09.13

ETH Zurich continues to climb

In this year’s QS World University Rankings, ETH Zurich has climbed another place to twelfth, still only behind British and American universities. The EPFL has also entered the Top 20 for the first time.

Peter Rüegg
Spot on ETH Zurich: In the new QS ranking, it is among the 12 top universities of the world. (Photo: Adrian Hu/
Spot on ETH Zurich: In the new QS ranking, it is among the 12 top universities of the world. (Photo: Adrian Hu/ (large view)

ETH Zurich can give itself a big pat on the back, even if the leap into the Top 10 (still) proves elusive: according to the latest QS World University Rankings 2013/2014, it is the twelfth best university in the world – one better than last year. ETH Zurich has thus made steady progress in these rankings.

Furthermore, ETH Zurich improved on its already strong position for “Academic reputation” and “Employer reputation”. The Swiss university also gained ground in the comparatively weak “Student-to-faculty ratio”, coming 138th (sixteen better than last year). Compared to the other top universities, however, its score for the number of citations per scientist dropped somewhat.

Top departments

In the latest QS rankings, ETH Zurich made noticeably good headway in subject areas. In the sciences, for instance, it came sixth and even managed to go one better in engineering & technology. “However, the subject rankings are based mainly on reputation indicators, which explains the relatively large changes for various universities, says Urs Hugentobler from Finance & Controlling at ETH Zurich, who evaluates the rankings.

The score for the internationality of the faculty is striking: given that three quarters of the faculty offices are internationally staffed, it received the maximum score.

Swiss universities keep getting better

For the first time, the EPFL reached the Top 20 this year. A year ago, ETH Zurich’s sister university entered the Top 30; now it has leapfrogged from 29th to 19th place. Hugentobler puts the jump down to the EPFL’s good rating in the subject areas. Six of the other eight Swiss universities included in the rankings also improved on last year’s performance, including the universities of Geneva (from 74th to 71st), Zurich (from 90th to 78th), Basel (from 121st to 110th) and Lausanne (from 115th to 111th). The University of Berne (from 149th to 154th) and HSG St. Gallen, however, dropped down the table.

The Top 10 is exclusively made up of American and British universities. The MIT leads the table for the second year in a row, followed by the universities of Harvard and Cambridge (UK), which switched places compared to last year. In all, the USA has six universities and Great Britain four universities in the Top 10, and eleven American universities feature in the Top 20.

The QS World University Rankings also reveal that student fees have skyrocketed in many countries. The fees for an undergraduate degree at one of the Top 10 universities average out at USD 34,000 – almost twice as much as in 2007, when students still had to muster USD 18,500. According to the QS Press Office’s press release, however, Switzerland has managed to establish top-class research universities that, thanks to public funding, remain accessible to most students.

QS World University Rankings

This year saw the tenth edition of the QS World University Rankings. 90,000 completed questionnaires on 3,000 universities were evaluated and analysed; 800 of them were ranked. Compared to other rankings, the QS World University Ranking is heavily weighted in favour of the reputation a university enjoys in expert circles. The results of a survey conducted among university professors on the renown of the individual universities constituted forty per cent of the overall result. Moreover, the ranking-makers also asked them how highly they rated graduates from the individual universities, which amounted to ten per cent of the overall score. Other indicators were the staff-student ratio (20 per cent), the average citation frequency per researchers (20 per cent) and the proportion of foreign scientists and students at the university (5 per cent each).

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