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Caltech tops list of world's universities

October 3, 2012 |  1:00 pm

The California Institute of Technology once again tops the ranks of the world’s best research universities, while University of California campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles maintained their top 20 positions despite massive state funding cuts to higher education, according to an academic survey.

The 2012-13 World University Rankings, released Wednesday by the Times Higher Education magazine in London, placed the Pasadena institution at No. 1, ahead of the University of Oxford and Stanford, which tied for second place. 

Harvard, last year’s runner-up, placed fourth.

The rest of the top 10 in order were: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago.

Caltech President Jean-Lou Chameau praised the other universities at the top and said he was pleased his institution, home to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was in such good company. He credited the school’s success to a simple recipe:

“We always try to recruit exceptional faculty and exceptional students,” Chameau said. “We try to support them the best we can and we encourage them them to look at big questions, important scientific issues. It has resulted in game-changing types of discoveries.”

The rankings use measures such as research funding, faculty publication, the influence of research as measured by citations, the international make-up of faculty and students and the number of doctorates awarded. 

The University of California had five campuses in the top 50 worldwide, with UCLA 13th and UC Santa Barbara 35th.  UC San Diego fell to 38th place from 33rd last year, while UC Davis fell to 44th place from 38th.  

Other public universities that lost ground include Pennsylvania State (51st to 61st), the University of Massachusetts (64th to 72nd), and Arizona State University (127th to 148th).

Those changes reflect a troubling trend of public funding cuts at the state and federal level that are eroding U.S. dominance, even as institutions in Asian countries such as South Korea and Hong Kong are making significant gains, said Phil Baty, the editor overseeing the rankings. The U.S. had 76 institutions among the top 200, but 51 of them slid lower down the list from last year.

“The U.S. still has by far the most world-class universities of any nation, and its leading institutions remain the very best in the world –- but there are signs of dangerous complacency and the start of the decline of a world-leading university sector,” Baty said in a statement.

"For many years, the U.S. has been the world’s biggest investor in tertiary education, spending more of its gross domestic product than any other developed nation on its universities -- but not anymore,” he said.

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--Carla Rivera

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