For the second year in a row, Cambridge University beat Harvard for the top spot on Quacquarelli Symonds's eighth annual World University Rankings. MIT, Yale, and Oxford round out the top five, respectively.
Head of Research for QS Ben Sowter explained the ranking to The Gaurdian. "The gap between Cambridge and Harvard is very small, but Cambridge's superior student/faculty ratio helped tip the balance," he said. "Individual attention is one of the key attractions of the Oxbridge tutorial system."
Abi K. Fiedler '15, who hails from Essex, England, applied to Oxford rather than Cambridge, but is nonetheless familiar with its curriculum and teaching. She was unfazed by Sowter's explanation.
"Here, I feel like we have plenty of advising," she said. "Even if the ratio isn't as good within departments, there is plenty of help."
QS used global surveys to rank the world's top 400 universities based on academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per faculty, the student/faculty ratio, and the proportions of international students and faculty.
Though Cambridge placed first overall, Harvard boasts the number one faculty for Arts and Humanities, Life Sciences and Medicine, and Social Sciences and Management, while Cambridge only claims a number one ranked faculty in Natural Sciences. Harvard also ranked first for academic reputation and employer reputation.
Londoner Lillie M. Beard '15 said that universities in America and the United Kingdom are difficult to compare, particularly in a quantitative way. "I think the reputation of a university is worth much more than a ranking," she said. "Unless the university I'm going to is number one, I don't really pay attention to it."
QS previously partnered with Times Higher Education, a London-based magazine, to determine its ratings. In 2009, THE separated from QS to develop their own ranking method, which they claimed would evaluate universities quantifiably, rather than through subjective surveys. THE partnered with Thomas Reuters and published its first rankings in 2010, with Harvard placing first and Cambridge, sixth. THE will publish its second annual World University Rankings on October 6, 2011.