And the award for ‘university with the most Nobel Prize winners’ goes to …?
Photo by Angela Weiss / POOL / AFP

The U.S. has so far produced the most Nobel Prize winners in history, with an outstanding 72 winners this century – more than the subsequent nine countries put together.

But which of its illustrious higher education institutions have hosted the most Nobel laureates?


Source: Times Higher Education


Ivy League institution Princeton University has topped the Times Higher Education (THE) list this year, leapfrogging over other top U.S. universities from its position in fourth place last year.

In fact, U.S. universities have taken up nine positions among this year’s top 10 – Princeton is closely followed by Stanford University, Columbia University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Meanwhile, Harvard University has broken into the top 10 from its position in 11th place in 2015, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has jumped up three spots to fifth place.

The Technion Israel Institute of Technology is the only non-U.S. institution to make the top 10, featuring in 10th place (down from joint eighth).


Source: Times Higher Education


The second most prolific nation for producing Nobel laureates is the UK with 16 prizes, followed by Japan with 15, and Germany with seven.

However, despite being the first UK university to top the THE World University Rankings in the 12-year history of the table this year, the University of Oxford does not appear in the list at all, having not been affiliated with any Nobel prizewinners this century.

The UK’s top representatives are the University of Cambridge and the University of Manchester, which made joint 14th place – the same position as last year, with one Nobel prize each.


The top 10 list of institutions, covering Nobel prizes awarded from 2000 to 2016, was produced by giving each university a score based on the number of winners affiliated with the institution at the time their award was granted.

The score was then weighted based on the number of prizewinners for the category and the number of institutions affiliated with each award winner. Literature and peace prizewinners were excluded from the analysis.

Phil Baty, the editor of the THE World University Rankings, said that while the list was meant to celebrate the achievements of universities that have been able to “create the appropriately creative and risk-taking environment that nurtures excellence in research and produces seismic results”, it comes with a “warning”.

“Increasingly, the demand from governments who fund university research is for clear, short-term outcomes, with obvious and immediate applications, and the demand from university administrators is for a steady stream of research publications.

“This of course has its role, but it is not how the very best science works,” he said.


Baty said that “to make truly ground-breaking discoveries”, scientists must be given the freedom to take risks, adding that it sometimes includes being free to fail.

“In today’s tighter, tougher climate, it seems clear that much of the work that has won Nobel Prizes over the years may not have taken place – it would have been deemed too risky, or too esoteric, or to be taking too long,” he added, echoing the message of Nobel Prize winner Saul Perlmutter.

Last month, Perlmutter told attendees at the World Academic Summit, which took place at the University of California, Berkeley, that he would not have been able to make his prizewinning discovery in today’s research funding environment.

Baty cautioned that plans to place restrictions on the free movement of talent – particularly in the U.S., Switzerland, and the UK – would “harm global science”.

“It is time for a serious policy debate around how we promote excellent science globally,” he urged.

Image via Flickr

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