The ranking is the highest yet achieved by ETH Zurich in the ranking for the study of 48 different subjects at the world’s universities.
In coming sixth, ETH is also the top-ranking university on continental Europe. In Europe as a whole, only the UK’s Oxford University scored higher – in fourth place overall.
Meanwhile, the very top of the table was dominated by US universities, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) coming top, followed by Stanford University and Harvard University. In fifth was California Institute of Technology.
ETH Zurich climbs further up the @TopUnis @worlduniranking to make it into the top six of the world’s best universities and be crowned the second-best university in Europe. #QSWUR https://t.co/tPqGEL7ViB pic.twitter.com/siBYMgeDdj
— ETH Zurich (@ETH_en) June 19, 2019
In terms of other Swiss universities, Lausanne’s EPFL technical institute also had a good result, moving up from 22nd place last year to 18th, while Zurich University was also in the QS global top 100 – in 76th place.
Europe's strongest research ecosystem
In a statement on Switzerland’s performance, QS analyst Ben Sowter said: “The Swiss higher education has consolidated its position as Europe’s strongest research ecosystem.”
He noted that Switzerland’s success was based on its international perspective and on its recognition of the need to invest in both human capital and research and development.
At the same time, the country’s very high standard of living made it an attractive destination for talent, he added.
Meanwhile, ETH President Joël Mesot on Wednesday reacted positively to the news of the institute’s QS ranking.
'A great result for Switzerland'
“We are very pleased about this great ranking. It provides yet more proof that ETH Zurich is on the right track in teaching, research and technology transfer,” Mesot said in a statement.
The ETH president also noted results of these rankings needed to be taken with caution.
“Nevertheless, we can be very proud. Particularly of the fact that the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology – ETH Zurich and EPFL – have placed very highly in all the rankings for years.”
Mesot also warned Switzerland against resting on his laurels.
He said the country needed to “work actively to ensure that the good financial and political framework for the ETH Domain and for Switzerland as a science hub remain in place in the coming years”.
ETH beats Cambridge on citations per faculty
The QS rankings measure six performance indicators: academic reputation (weighted at 40 percent of the total result); employer reputation (10 percent), faculty/student ratio (20 percent), citations per faculty (20 percent) and international faculty ratio/international student ratio (5 percent each).
While ETH Zurich and the University of Cambridge had similar scores for most of these metrics, ETH did substantially better than the UK university in terms of citation per faculty, scoring 98.4 out of 100 against 74.2 for Cambridge.
The citation per faculty indicator is determined by looking at the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.
Papers in different fields are weighted differently to prevent life science papers skewing results. In 2015, the life sciences accounted for nearly half of all academic papers published, according to QS.
In the rival Times Higher Education World University Rankings, ETH Zurich is currently ranked as the 11th best university in the world.