Stanford top university for producing Nobel laureates

UK is second to US for nationality of Nobel prizewinners in the 21st century

August 6, 2015
Andrew Fire receives Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2006
Source: Getty
Burning bright: Stanford professor Andrew Z. Fire receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006

Stanford University has topped a list of institutions with the most Nobel prizewinners this century, while the US dominates a top 10 based on the nationality of winners.

US universities and institutes take eight spots in the institutional top 10 table, drawn up by Times Higher Education ahead of the World Academic Summit next month.

Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Germany’s Max Planck Society take the two remaining positions in joint eighth and 10th place respectively.

Harvard University does not feature in the elite top 10, lying just outside in 11th place, while the University of Cambridge’s tally of one Nobel prize this century is not enough to make the top 10. The University of Oxford fails to feature in the list, having produced no Nobel prizewinners this century.

The institutional list, covering Nobel prizes awarded from 2000 to 2014, 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.

Henry Yang, chancellor of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the seventh institution on the institutional list, said that its success is down to its focus on “developing an intellectual environment that nurtures collegial partnerships”.

Christina Beck, head of communication at the Max Planck Society, said it “attempts to identify those high-potential scientists who dare to take on completely new approaches and unusual ideas regarding scientific problems. High risk and high trust are our core principles.”

The US tops the table based on the nationality of Nobel prizewinners this century – also produced using a weighted score according to how many winners there were for each prize – accounting for nearly half (71) of the 146 laureates.

The US’ “golden year” was 2006 – the only year since the start of the century where all the prizewinners were from one country and affiliated with that country’s institutions.

Despite the UK missing out on the top 10 table for institutions, it is in second place when it comes to the number of prizewinners by nationality, receiving an overall score of six from a total of 12 prizes this century.

Australia is the only country to win more than one Nobel prize whose winners have received all of their awards in the same field: physiology or medicine.

Phil Baty, THE rankings editor, said that Asia’s otherwise world-class institutions are “notable by their absence”.

“While many in East Asia have benefited from generous funding in recent decades and exciting reforms which have seen them march up the World University Rankings, there is a remaining challenge around nurturing the creativity, the freedom and the often rather maverick thinking that can lead to the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries,” he added.

“But the UK should also take this as a warning sign – is the uniquely pressurised atmosphere created by a series of funding cuts and a growing culture of short-termism and target-setting taking its toll on our academics’ ability to truly find the space to think big?”

The THE World Academic Summit, which is being held at the University of Melbourne from 30 September to 2 October, will include a session on nurturing the next generation of Nobel prizewinners, and will hear from internationally acclaimed laureate Brian Schmidt, as well as Nicholas Dirks, chancellor of the third highest institution in the list, the University of California, Berkeley.

Affiliation of prizewinners 2000-14

Rank Position in WUR 2014-15 Institution Country Score
1 4 Stanford University  US 3.16
2 14 Columbia University US 2.50
3 8 University of California, Berkeley  US 2.25
4 7 Princeton University US 2.00
4 11 University of Chicago  US 2.00
6 n/a Howard Hughes Medical Institute  US 1.77
7 37 University of California, Santa Barbara  US 1.74
8 6 Massachusetts Institute of Technology  US 1.66
8 201-225 Technion Israel Institute of Technology  Israel 1.66
10 n/a Max Planck Society Germany 1.29

Note: Scores weighted based on number of winners and sites affiliated with a prize. Literature and peace prizes excluded

Awards by country 2000-14

Rank Country Score Overall number of Nobel prizes Top field
1 US 29.8 71 Economic sciences
2 UK 6.0 12 Physiology/medicine
3 Japan 4.3 13 Physics
4 Germany 3.4 7 Physics
5 Israel 2.5 5 Chemistry
=6 France 2.0 4 Physiology/medicine
=6 Russia 2.0 5 Physics
8 Australia 1.3 3 Physiology/medicine
9 Norway 1.0 3 Physiology/medicine
=10 Belgium 0.8 2 n/a
=10 China 0.8 2 n/a
=10 Italy 0.8 2 n/a

Note: Scores are weighted based on the number of winners there were for each Nobel prize. Literature and peace prizewinners have been excluded from the analysis


Print headline: Stanford top of class for Nobel laureates

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Reader's comments (6)

The last table does not seem to be correct. Canada should be on that list. There were a total of 3 Nobel Winners (excl Lit and Peace) from Canada between 2000-2014.
Would the table be different if prize winners were ranked on the basis of place of birth, or their undergraduate university. These table could merely be an indication as to which university can buy the best academics - a bit like football perhaps?
It seems to me that 14 years is far too short a sample period to discern any real trends in international data, especially as Nobel prizes are often awarded many years after the discoveries. In any case, focusing on Noblel awards - and ignoring all others - is a rather simplistic barometer to use in the measurement of outstanding work, given that many Nobel Prizes are not awarded in many fields such as mathematics or engineering
Douglas Taylor makes a good point!
are prizes/accolades the right measure(s) of success or its high time that we rank the institutions that have helped maximize alleviation of human suffering, poverty and teaching good citizenship? it's time that our educational institutions focus on building good citizenry rather than in the rat race of winning awards. thank you. binay panda
This emphasizes how prejudiced most university rankings are. Harvard is not even on the list, and Technion with the 8th place on the Nobel list is ranked lower than 200 by THE. Maybe THE people (and others) should stop and think for a moment if it is the right thing they are ranking, And maybe, just maybe .. there is also some politics involved?