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Global rankings have become as unavoidable as hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this month, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a London-headquartered and globally operating consultancy firm specializing in higher education and study abroad, released the 2012 edition of its global league tables. The QS World University Rankings thus followed Shanghai Jiao Tong’s Academic Ranking of World Universities at just one month’s distance.
The two leading institutions are located in places named Cambridge, although on different sides of the Atlantic. The MIT is the top-rated university, followed by the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom, UK). Four universities in the top 10 are British, six are American. This pattern is roughly mirrored in the top 200. The US leads with 53 universities, the UK comes second with 30 institutions. Compared with ARWU, where the US was represented with 75 of the top 200 and the UK with 19, US dominance is less pronounced and the position of the UK is stronger in the QS rankings.
Overall, Western dominance continues, although Asian institutions are catching up step by step. Nine Japanese institutions made it into the first 200, and 14 from the three different ‘Chinese’ systems (CN: 7, HK: 5, TW: 2). Of those from Hong Kong, three made it into the top 40. South Korea also scores well. Small countries often do amazingly well: Switzerland provides the two top-ranked continental European universities (ETH and EPFL) and the Netherlands gets 10 institutions into the leading 200. Latin America is slowly getting stronger, though its best-placed university (São Paulo) is only on rank 139. African universities are largely absent. There is some movement in the Middle East, where King Saud University made it into the top 200.