QS World University Rankings 2016/17: Fifth time’s the charm, as MIT takes top spot once again

MIT has been named the world’s top university for the fifth straight year, according to the QS World University Rankings 2016/17.

It was also ranked the best university in the world for 12 out of 42 disciplines, ranging from engineering and technology to architecture, linguistics, and economics by QS, an organization specializing in education and study abroad.

In fact, U.S. institutions made a clean sweep for the top three positions for the first time, with Stanford University and Harvard University in second and third place, respectively.

The U.K.’s University of Cambridge dropped out from the top three in its lowest position since the launch of the rankings in 2004.

What may be of concern to many in the U.K.’s higher education sector, however, is the fact that it was not only Cambridge that suffered a slight fall – of the 48 U.K. institutions featured in the top 400, 38 have dropped down the rankings.

According to QS, this decline was likely due to uneasiness over post-Brexit changes.

“Uncertainty over research funding, immigration rules, and the ability to hire and retain the top young talent from around the world seems to be damaging the reputation of the U.K.’s higher education sector,” said Ben Sowter, head of research at QS.


Despite the minor dip, four U.K. universities remain in the top 10, with Cambridge (4), Oxford (6), University College London (7), and Imperial (9).

The University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester were among the universities which climbed in the rankings – Edinburgh jumped up two places, from 21 to 19, while Manchester went from 33 to 29.

London is also home to the most top 40 institutions on the list, with almost half of its universities rising in the rankings.

The city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, told the Guardian: “Boasting more of the globe’s top universities and welcoming the most international students, London is the higher education capital of the world and I want to make sure it stays that way.”


In the Asia-Pacific region, universities have continued their upward progress: South Korea saw a significant rise, with 16 institutions in the top 500, compared to last year’s 13, while China’s Tsinghua University rose to its highest-ever position, at 24.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is still the leading university in the region, in 12th place, closely followed by another Singaporean institution, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) at 13.

As for Singapore’s northern neighbor, Malaysia, it now has three institutions in the top 300: in addition to its top ranking university, Universiti Malaya (133), Universiti Putra Malaysia (270) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (288) have risen up the ranks.


Australia and Canada have increased their representation in the top 200, with nine universities each, up one from the previous year. The Australian National University and McGill University were the top universities for their respective country.

Latin American institutions struggled to make much headway in the rankings, but also saw one of its universities break into the top 100 for the first time – Argentina’s Universidad de Buenos Aires, at 85, achieved the highest rank ever reached by a university from the region.

Commenting on the global performance of universities, Sowter said that the latest rankings showed that investment in higher education pays off.

“This year’s rankings imply that levels of investment are determining who progresses and who regresses. Institutions in countries that provide high levels of targeted funding, whether from endowments or from the public purse, are rising. On the other hand, some Western European nations making or proposing cuts to public research spending are losing ground to their U.S. and Asian counterparts,” he added.


The rankings include 916 universities from 81 countries, with up to 33 countries featuring in the top 200. The U.S. dominated overall, with 48 institutions, ahead of the U.K. (30), Netherlands (12), Germany (11), Canada (9), Australia (9), Japan (8), China (7), France (5), Sweden (5), and Hong Kong (5).

Over 74,650 academics and 37,780 employers contributed to the rankings through the QS global surveys, the largest of their kind. QS analyzed 10.3 million research papers and 66.3 million citations, indexed by Elsevier’s Scopus database. Over 3,800 institutions were considered for inclusion and 916 ranked.

The QS World University Rankings are based on four key pillars: research, teaching, employability and internationalization. The methodology consists of six indicators: academic reputation (40 percent), employer reputation (10 percent), faculty student ratio (20 percent), citations per faculty (20 percent), international students (5 percent), and international faculty (5 percent).

The full QS World University Rankings for 2016/17 can be found here.

Image via Unsplash

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