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MIT Tops QS World University Rankings 

MIT campus, aerial view

Credit: Getty Images

The 14th edition of the QS World University Rankings has been released, ranking over 950 universities from 84 different countries.

For the sixth year running, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) leads the way at the top of the rankings, closely followed by three other U.S. universities (Stanford, Harvard, and the California Institute of Technology). Notable developments in the rankings include six Chinese universities in the top 100 for the first time and Russian universities making big advances.

Here's an overview of some of this year's rankings.

MIT Still Lightyears Ahead

Over 180 universities from the U.S. and Canada are included in this year's ranking but none come close to matching the performance of MIT. Ben Sowter, Head of Division in the QS Intelligence Unit, says the Massachusetts university could dominate for some time to come. "MIT has a network of successful alumni who make substantial donations to their alma mater and the power these connections grant the university cannot be overestimated," he says. "Other institutions are scrambling to catch up, but MIT has a 20-year head start so will be pretty difficult to dislodge."

Lower down the rankings, things are less certain for U.S. universities as growing competition internationally is making it harder for some institutions to attract international faculty and students. Twenty-one of the top 50 universities in the U.S. and Canada have fallen down the ranking since last year.

Russia on the Rise

Over recent years, Russian universities have benefited from increased government funding and a concerted attempt to improve student mobility and that investment looks to be paying off. Of the 24 universities from Russia included in this year's ranking, only two have fallen compared to last year, while the others have either held firm or made impressive gains on their competition.

Elsewhere in Europe, U.K. universities struggle for a second straight year although Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, and Imperial all retain places in the top 10. Whether Brexit and the fall-out from the 2017 general election will make it harder still for U.K. universities to make international connections remains to be seen, and likely political changes in France, Germany, and other European nations could cause plenty of shifts in the world of higher education in the years ahead. For now, many western European countries appear to be in rude health, with Italy in particular resurgent, thanks to two new entries in the top 200.

China Keeps Climbing

With six universities in the top 100 for the first time ever, this year's ranking makes for exciting reading if you're from China. Zhejiang University and the University of Science and Technology in China are the new arrivals in the top 100. In total, China has nearly 50 universities in this year's ranking.

Elsewhere in Asia, there's big news in Singapore where Nanyang Technological Institute has overtaken the National University of Singapore and is on the cusp of the top 10. "The world is changing quickly and rankings will increasingly chart the triumph of younger, more agile universities over their more traditional counterparts, as has happened here," Sowter says.

It's a Small World

One trend this year that's immediately obvious, and worth paying attention to in the future, is the continued improvement of universities in less obvious parts of the world. In Latin America, for example, both Argentina and Brazil have seen a flagship university climb the ranking. Argentina's Universidad de Buenos Aires is now ranked 75th, while the Universidade de So Paulo in Brazil is up to 120th. In the Middle East, the top four universities in Saudi Arabia have all improved on last year's positions. If these performances continue, the need for students to travel abroad to find a good university education may decrease. Even in countries such as Russia and China, there is still work to be done to convince young people they can get a strong education without moving away.

Perhaps the only part of the world which remains under-represented in this year's rankings is Africa, although the University of Cape Town continues to hold a spot in the top 200. Other African universities may feature lower down the ranking, but there are no signs to suggest a rapid advance up the rankings is on its way.

About the Rankings

Published annually, the QS World University Rankings provides an index of the world's leading higher education institutions, based on six performance indicators. The ranking has been expanded this year to feature 959 universities (43 more than last year) in 84 countries. The results are presented in an interactive table, which can be filtered by both location and indicator.

In 2013, QS became the first compiler of international rankings to be independently audited and approved by the IREG Observatory on Academic Rankings and Excellence.

QS World University Rankings has also published lists of the top universities in the U.S., in the U.K., in Russia, in China, in German, in Canada, in Taiwan, in Japan, in Israel, in South Korea, and elsewhere.


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