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University of Edinburgh retains 17th place in world ranking

ByJoshua Stein

Sep 23, 2014
image courtesy of Kay WIlliams

The University of Edinburgh has been ranked 17th in the QS World University Rankings for the second year in a row.

Commenting on the results, Peter McColl, Rector of The University of Edinburgh, told The Student: “It’s good to see the hard work of the University staff recognised in these rankings.

“The international reputation of the university is a source of great pride for us all and it helps to underpin the ongoing work to improve the student experience.”

But Mike Sowter, managing director at QS, warned that better known universities are more likely to do well throughout the survey, saying: “We don’t take an exhaustive view of what universities are doing.”

Various factors determine a university’s ranking, including academic reputation, staff-to-student ratios and research citations throughout the university.

UK universities this year received their highest rankings since records began, according to QS.

Four out of six of the highest ranked world universities were British, with the University of Cambridge taking joint second place with Imperial College London.

The University of Oxford and University College London (UCL) took joint fifth.

London also became the first city to ever have three institutions in the top twenty.

Imperial College, making it into the top two for the first time, highlighted research as a fundamental reason for their success.

The university launched the ‘iKnife’ last year, a surgical device which can locate cancer tumors.

They also highlighted scientific contributions to the university by Professor Sir John Pendry, winner of the Kevil Prize in nanoscience.

Professor Pendry was awarded the prize for his study on light’s behavior on a billionth-of-a-meter scale.

In an interview with The Guardian, Professor Alice Gast, the newly-appointed President of Imperial College, remarked: “These rankings support what our students alumni staff friends and collaborators know, that Imperial is one of the world’s greatest universities.”

Asked by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings what characteristics were needed to make it into the top 200, Sowter said that the rankings were “always going to be a blunt instrument”, but that reputation, research citations and staff-to-student ratios accounted for 80 per cent of the assessment.

He added that the number of intnational students and staff was also a contributing factor.

A month before the release of the THE rankings, academics pointed to an average staff-to-student ratio of one to 12 among top universities, with about 20 per cent of the students coming from outside of the UK.

They also highlighted the importance of a research income exceeding £142,000 per academic.

Andreas Schleicher, known for his PISA tests measuring the quality of high school education systems worldwide, has argued for a new way to compare universities.

Schleicher suggested to The Guardian last week that teaching standards would certainly be assessed in his rankings.

A high standing in the QS rankings advertises the university to potential benefactors.

The higher-ranked universities are also more likely to attract the best quality researchers and students.

Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said that the UK needed higher university funding if it was to cope with international competition.

Piatt pointed out that UK university funding was far behind that of countries such as China and the USA.

She said: “Our public expenditure of 0.9 per cent of GDP on higher education is on a par with Israel and Mexico.”


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