Industrial ties keep US in prime position - but India is not far behind

December 10, 2004

Martin Ince dissects the data to identify centres of science-based excellence

Big US institutions with strong industrial connections are in pole position in our table of the world's top universities for engineering and information technology.

Top is Berkeley, part of the University of California system and a formidable centre for innovation in all disciplines. The peer-review panel assembled by QS preferred it over Harvard University both in engineering and IT and across all disciplines, as our World University Rankings showed (November 5).

In second and third places come two private US institutions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. Both were key players in the computer revolution. Stanford was the birthplace of Silicon Valley, and its alumni founded iconic IT firms such as Cisco, eBay and Google. Both institutions are making the transition from electronics and IT to bio and nanotechnology.

The appearance of the Indian Institutes of Technology in fourth place is explained in an article on the page opposite. Its position confirms India's growth as a centre for innovation in its own right.

Our analysis of the citations data that accompany the peer review in this table also show the massive cultural difference between engineering and IT and the sciences. Yale University and Harvard head our list of citations per paper with 8.11 and 8.08 citations respectively. But a look at the table for science citations on the previous page shows that these universities' science publications manage 16.7 and 20.5 citations each. In the biomedical field, which we will analyse next year, the publishing and citations ethos will be seen to be even more intense.

Part of the reason for the lower level of citation in engineering and IT is that academics in these fields often publish in the proceedings of annual conferences rather than in traditional journals. Some of these are sampled thoroughly by Thomson Scientific, the source of the data processed by Evidence Ltd for The Times Higher , but many are not. In addition, as with our science analysis, the tables show few citations for well-regarded Asian institutions, which may well publish more papers in prestigious inter-national journals in coming years.

Like the science analysis, this table shows that excellent technology research is widespread, with 26 countries represented, exactly as many - by pure coincidence - as for science. It confirms that big general universities are excellent at everything they do, with the likes of Harvard, Berkeley, Cambridge, Oxford and Tokyo well-placed in these analyses, as they were in our World University Rankings.

But specialist institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, Imperial College London, MIT, Caltech and Georgia Institute of Technology in the US, the Tokyo Institute of Technology and ETH Zurich, also figure prominently here.

Overall, universities with a science and technology orientation take places out of the 100 we list. These institutions are as large as big general universities in student and staff numbers and can often outgun them in fundraising power, especially in the US, where they have produced uniquely affluent alumni bodies.

While universities in Asia may well enhance their positions in this table in future years, the big-name institutions of California and New England will certainly continue to figure strongly.

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