ETH Zurich named top university in continental Europe in prestigious ranking

Switzerland’s technology institute ETH Zurich has once again been named the best university in continental Europe in a ranking of the top 500 universities worldwide by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy.

ETH Zurich named top university in continental Europe in prestigious ranking
ETH Zurich. Photo: Gian Marco Castelberg/ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich, which consistently performs well in international rankings, retained its 19th position overall in the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), released on Tuesday. 
“ETH Zurich has come to symbolize excellent education, groundbreaking basic research and applied results that are beneficial for society as a whole,” said the ranking authors online.
Institutions in the UK and US took all the places above it in a list topped by Harvard in the US for the 15th year running. 
Stanford, Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California, Berkeley, made up the top five. 
In 30th place overall, Copenhagen University was the second best in continental Europe.
As well as ETH Zurich, Lausanne’s EPFL and the universities of Zurich, Geneva and Basel made the top 100, meaning Switzerland was fourth overall in terms of the number of institutions in the top 100, behind the US (on 48), the UK (9) and Australia (6). 
EPFL – the sister institution to ETH Zurich – gained 16 places to rank 76th, a performance a spokeswoman for the Lausanne technology institute told La Tribune de Genève was “magnificent” and “shows our vision for scientific excellence is solid, even if EPFL doesn’t chase rankings and doesn’t modify its academic strategies to gain places”. 
Carried out annually since 2003, the ARWU – known as the Shanghai ranking – claims to be one of the most trustworthy league tables. 
However it has been criticized for the methodology it uses, which gives weight to science over teaching. Its six main criteria include the number of Nobel Prize-winning staff – ETH Zurich has had 21 – the number of highly cited researchers, and the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science.
The ranking assesses around 1,300 institutions annually, publishing what it sees as the top 500. For the first time this year it has also published those ranked 501-800


Why ETH Zurich has been ranked the ‘best university in continental Europe’

A new international survey of universities has ranked Zurich’s Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) the highest in the world outside the US and the UK. How does this school excel?

Why ETH Zurich has been ranked the 'best university in continental Europe'
ETH's main hall. Photo by

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2022 have placed ETH in the 15th place (out of 1,600 surveyed worldwide). The school dropped from the 14th-place ranking the previous year.

Universities in the United Kingdom and the United States hold all of the top rankings ahead of ETH Zurich.

But as the top 14 are not in continental Europe, this means ETH has the unofficial title of the of best in Europe.

What is ETH and what does it do?

It is a public research university focusing exclusively on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

It has a “sister” school located in Lausanne, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which specialises in natural sciences and engineering. 

The EPFL ranked in the 40th place in the survey.

Why has ETH scored so high in the study?

“Our strategy is derived from our federal mandate to conduct fundamental research, train specialists and transfer new knowledge to the economy and society,” said ETH President Joël Mesot.

University ranking methodology is based on scores for high-​level indicators relating to teaching, research, international perspective, and collaboration with industry.

“ETH’s overall scores show improvement in teaching, research, and publication citations”, the university’s rankings expert Paul Cross said.

However, it dropped slightly in terms of industry income and international outlook.

“Competition is fierce at the top tier of the rankings”, Cross noted. 

Here are some interesting facts about ETH:

  • It was founded in 1855 by the Swiss government to train engineers and scientists.
  • Today 18,000 students from over 100 different countries study at ETZ, 3,800 of whom are doctoral students.
  • So far, 21 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to researchers who have or had a connection with ETH Zurich.
  • While tuition in the top-ranking schools in the UK — Oxford and Cambridge — costs well over 10,000 francs each year, and in the in the US universities, such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Caltech, the annual tuition exceeds 50,000 a year, at ETH it is 1,460 francs.

In all, Switzerland is home to seven of the world’s top universities. Aside from ETH and EPFL, they are University of Zurich (75th place), University of Bern (101st), Universities of Basel and Geneva (103rd), University of Lausanne (176th).

Complete ranking can be seen here.

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