Best Universities in the World for Science

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Best Universities in the World for Science
Times Higher Education Supplement
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The Times, December 10, 2004

Oxford and Cambridge come top of world league for science
By Tony Halpin, Education Editor

CAMBRIDGE and Oxford are the best universities in the world for science, according to a global survey of academics published yesterday.

Cambridge was top of the league table of 100 universities, well ahead of Oxford and third-placed Harvard. Imperial College, London, was ranked tenth.

The three British universities were the only European representatives in the top ten. American universities claimed six places and Japan’s Tokyo University was the only leading institution from outside the US and Britain.

The rankings were compiled by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), which asked 1,300 active academics in 88 countries to identify the top university in their areas of expertise.

David Secher, director of research services at Cambridge, said: “It is pleasing but perhaps not surprising that the home of Newton, Darwin, Crick and Watson and now Stephen Hawking is perceived as the world leader in science.

“We are clear that there is a leading group of universities in the US and the UK against which we benchmark ourselves. It is also clear that there are no European universities outside the UK in this group and we want as a nation to be sure not to sacrifice this position.”

Cambridge announced yesterday that it had been given $1.85 million (£960,000) by an anonymous American donor to honour the life and work of Professor Hawking.

The money will establish an endowment fund in the scientist’s name, with £300,000 used to bolster and sustain research at the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

Cambridge said that Professor Hawking planned to spend the money on providing positions for young cosmologists and financial support for their research. Professor Hawking said: “The ultimate aim of cosmology is to understand the origin of the universe. How does fundamental theory produce the marvellous and complex structure we observe today from a simple beginning? The purpose of the endowment is to support research into these questions and related issues.”

The success of Oxbridge comes as leading science organisations in Britain have given warning of growing problems for undergraduate study.

The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics said last week that departments at a number of universities faced the threat of closure as vice-chancellors sought to cut back on loss-making courses.

Newcastle became the first member of the elite Russell Group to declare last week that it was no longer accepting entries for undergraduate physics programmes. Exeter also confirmed that its chemistry department woud close.

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, has asked the Higher Education Funding Council for England to recommend measures to protect science and other courses considered to be of national strategic importance.

The THES league table showed that Britain has 10 universities in the top 100, as does Germany, although its highest-placed institution, Heidelberg, was only 21st. The top European university outside Britain was the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, in 13th place. France also had three institutions in the top 20.

The table indicates the rising importance of Asia, with seven Chinese and six Japanese universities in the top 100, as well as two from South Korea and one each from Taiwan and Singapore. Australia also fares well, with six universities in the list, one more than France.

Harvard leads the way, however, on the amount of scientific research produced by academics that is cited in other papers., Work by its staff received more than 20 references per paper, compared with a little more than 12 for Cambridge and Oxford.

Three American universities dominated a similar ranking of the top 100 centres for engineering and information technology.

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