World University Rankings 2018 by subject: physical sciences results out now

Expansion of league table reveals a more diverse list of countries and institutions

November 27, 2017
molecular model
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THE World University Rankings 2018 by subject: physical sciences

Australia, China and the Netherlands have made progress in Times Higher Education’s latest subject ranking for the physical sciences, while Canada, Germany and South Korea have all lost ground in the face of increased competition.

Although the US dominates the table, claiming 115 places in the top 500 list, including six of the top 10, other nations are becoming more prominent.

Australia’s top three institutions – the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland – have all risen up the table, and the country has a new entry in the University of Sydney, which debuts in 97th place. Each of the three leading institutions recorded improvements in their teaching environment score.

China is another strong performer. It has 23 representatives, the same number as Australia, and its top four institutions have all made gains, reflecting improvements in their scores for teaching environment, research environment and international outlook. Nanjing University also makes its debut in the table, in 82nd place.

In Europe, meanwhile, all four of the Netherlands’ top 100 representatives, and all three of Sweden’s institutions in this elite group, have advanced in the table.

THE World University Rankings 2018 by subject: physical sciences top 10

2018 rank 2017 rank University Country WUR 2018 rank
1 3 Princeton University United States 7
2 1 Harvard University United States 6
3 2 Stanford University United States =3
4 5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States 5
5 4 University of Cambridge United Kingdom 2
6 6 University of Oxford United Kingdom 1
7 7 California Institute of Technology United States =3
8 8 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland =10
9 11 Imperial College London United Kingdom 8
10 12 University of Chicago United States 9

Uppsala University, for instance, has climbed 15 places to 72nd this year. In a joint statement, Olof Karis, head of the department of physics and astronomy, and Jan-Erik Rubensson, dean of the physics section, attributed the rise in industry income this year to “new collaborations with industry in materials science, and instrument development tied to facilities like [Sweden’s synchrotron radiation facility] MAX IV [Laboratory]…and Cern [the European Organisation for Nuclear Research]”.

A spokeswoman at Delft University of Technology, which has moved up 11 places to 47th, said that its citation impact boost could be credited in part to the fact that “research in especially quantum nanotechnology and bio-nanotechnology has boomed” in recent years.

The expansion of the table to include 500 institutions, up from 100 universities previously, affords a much more diverse picture. Overall, 50 countries are represented in the top 500 list, including 32 making a first appearance, among them India, Malaysia, the Czech Republic and Spain.

But this expansion has brought increased competition, which has resulted in weaker showings from some nations.

The majority of Germany’s 10 institutions in the top 100 have fallen since last year, for instance. The reasons vary by institution, but most saw drops in their scores for teaching and research.

Elsewhere, South Korea’s top performer, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), has slipped three places to 92nd, while its former number one, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), has fallen at least 25 places into the 101-125 band, reflecting declines across the board.

Canada’s two leading universities also slipped down the table.

The physical sciences subject ranking is based on the same range of 13 performance indicators used in the overall THE World University Rankings 2018, but the methodology has been recalibrated to suit the individual fields.

Browse the full list of universities in this year’s physical sciences rankings

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