Harvard rules the medical world

October 14, 2005

Australia is the surprising second power after the US in 2005, says Martin Ince

Harvard Medical School is still the world's best, according to our expert peer review panel of medical researchers. For the second year running, Harvard has beaten Cambridge and Oxford universities in the rankings for biomedicine.

Harvard Medical School spent more than $413 million (£235 million) on research in 2004. It has an endowment of about $2.5 billion and more than 9,000 staff. The subject areas included here also cover Harvard's dental school.

This analysis pairs the opinions of medical scientists among our 2,400-strong peer review panel with citations per paper in biomedicine achieved by authors from the named universities.

The panel was assembled and questioned by QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The citations data were derived by Evidence Ltd from the Thomson Scientific Essential Science Indicators database between 1995 and 2005, limiting the analysis to institutions with at least 5,000 papers over that period. We have not attempted to aggregate the two columns.

Like the other analyses we publish, the league is confined to institutions that teach undergraduates, even if some offer medicine at postgraduate level. As a result, distinguished colleges such as Rockefeller University in New York and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine lose out.

The top 100 includes 29 US institutions. In our review of science universities ( Times Higher , October 7) Germany and the UK tied for second place after the US, but in medicine our panel regards Australia as the world's second power behind the US, with 14 entrants.

The University of Western Australia is up from 96th place in 2004 to 82nd.

The data were collected before the announcement last week that Western Australia's Barry Marshall had won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for work on peptic ulcers. He won the prize jointly with Robin Warren from neighbouring Royal Perth Hospital. The attendant publicity could push Western Australia higher up our rankings in years to come.

Comparison with 2004 brings surprises, such as York University's entry at 34, just two years after refounding its medical school jointly with Hull University.

At a higher level, there are also notable winners and losers. The US manages only four of the top ten slots, with the UK, Australia, China and Sweden also represented.

The biggest climbers are Edinburgh University, up to 16 from 21, and the National University of Singapore, up ten places from 25. There are 17 new entrants. One major loser is ETH Zurich, which fares well in our tables for science and engineering. In medicine, it has fallen from 33 in 2004 to 53.

The National University of Singapore is one of a number of universities that meet with peer approval but do not appear in our listing of citations per paper.

Many, including Beijing University, which is ranked eighth in our peer review, may miss out because their researchers publish little in English.

Others, such as Sydney University and the Australian National University, may not have the requisite 5,000 papers.

The top 100 institutions named by our panel are in 26 countries. The UK and Germany come third and fourth after the US and Australia, with nine and seven universities respectively.

The tables were compiled by Martin Ince ( martin@martinince.com ) from data supplied by QS Quacquarelli Symonds ( www.qsnetwork.com ) and Evidence Ltd ( www.evidence.co.uk ). Next week we publish the rankings for the social sciences and the arts and humanities, and on October 28, the full World University Rankings of the top 200 universities in the world. The rankings for science and engineering were published on October 7.

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