India in hot pursuit of US elite

October 7, 2005

Our peer review of the world's top technology universities shows that in 2004, the high praise for the Indian Institutes of Technology was no fluke.

Up to third position in 2005 from fourth place last year, the IITs are a source of Indian national pride as well as innovation and wealth.

The table shows that the technologists among our peer review panel regard Imperial College London as the UK's hottest university, ahead of Cambridge University and fifth in the world. Specialist institutions do well in the table, in contrast to the big general universities that dominate our other rankings. They take four of the top five places and many lower ones.

The ranking is dominated by the US, no surprise for the world's top high-technology nation. It appears 26 times in the top 101 institutions in our list. For once, this area is one in which Harvard University ranks outside the elite, appearing in 21st place. Many universities would regard this as a triumph but it is lowly compared with Harvard's ranking in science, social sciences, biomedicine, and the arts and humanities.

Our definition of technology covers the main engineering disciplines including information and communications technology. Viewed alongside the tables for science subjects, our rankings suggest it is possible for a university to be strong in science but not technology, and vice versa.

The top science institutions, Cambridge and Oxford universities, cut less of a dash in engineering and IT, placed 6 and 13 respectively, while the IITs come 36th in science despite being third in technology. Overall, 10 of the top 20 institutions in science are rated by our peer review panel as being in the top 20 for technology and IT.

Engineering expertise is even more globally widespread than scientific wizardry, with institutions in 31 countries cited by our college of peer reviewers.

The other column in our tables - citations per paper published in engineering and IT - shows that in contrast to science, many technology academics appear rarely in the world's top research publications. This applies especially to institutions outside the English-speaking world but also to some well-rated universities in Australia and elsewhere. It suggests that big US institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley generate not only highly regarded papers but also many commercial innovations and spin-offs.

Harvard, despite its lowly position in our peer review, produces highly cited technology papers. On this measure, with 7.6 citations per paper, it is second only to Yale University, which has 8.2 citations per paper, despite being placed at 62 in our peer review.

The explanation seems to be that both produce a small number of high-impact papers.

  Tables available in Statistics section:  

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