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ETH Zurich named the best university outside of UK and US by QS ranking

ETH Zurich named the best university outside of UK and US by QS ranking

ETH Zurich has cemented its status as the best university outside of the UK and US, according to the latest ranking from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). While ETH and its sister institution in Lausanne performed well in the new study, other universities in Switzerland had mixed results.

QS University ranking returns

To create the ranking, 1.500 different universities in 104 countries around the world were analysed. Unlike the Times University Rankings (THE) which analyses the student experience as a whole, the QS report focuses on sustainability and how likely students are to find a job once classes are done and the mortarboard is thrown.

17,5 million academic papers and the opinions of 240.000 faculty and employers were used to rate each university out of 100 in the following categories:

  • Academic reputation
  • Citations per faculty
  • Employment outcomes
  • Employer reputation
  • Faculty-to-student ratio
  • International faculty ratio
  • International research network
  • International student ratio
  • Sustainability

Each category was given a specific weighting and incorporated into an overall score of 100. Alongside sustainability and employability, the 2025 edition of the ranking also placed a high value on international research networks to recognise “the importance of research in changing the world.”

University rankings remain a UK and US domain

For 2025, the top of the ranking was held by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a score of 100, the 13th time the American university has placed top of the QS ranking. MIT took first thanks to perfect scores in all but the international faculty, research, students and sustainability categories.

Second place was won by Imperial College London, while Oxford won the academic Boat Race (in contrast to the actual race) in third. Harvard University, Cambridge and Stanford rounded out the top six.

ETH Zurich retains title of best outside the UK and US

Reclaiming its title of the best university outside of the UK and US was ETH Zurich, with the federal institution taking seventh place in the 2025 QS ranking with a score of 93,9. ETH was helped along thanks to top scores for academic reputation and international faculty - as the alma mater of Albert Einstein and 21 other Nobel prize winners, this is perhaps not a surprise.

While ETH did very well for academics and sustainability, there is still room for improvement: the university was rated as not having as high a reputation with employers as it could have, and only earned 65,9 points for faculty-to-student ratio.

Elsewhere, ETH’s sister university EPF in Lausanne also faired well in the QS report for 2025, rising by 10 places to rank 26th in the world. The University of Fribourg (539th place) and Zurich University of Applied Sciences (781-790th place) also improved their scores compared to last year.

University of Zurich drops out of top 100

However, the remaining six Swiss universities included in the report fell down the ranking. The University of Zurich fell 18 places this year, dropping out of the top 100 and placing 109th - though considering their decision to withdraw from the THE ranking, they might not mind the downgrade.

The University of Italian Switzerland saw the biggest drop this year, falling by 77 places to 405th. Institutions in Basel, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva also saw declining scores in the 2025 ranking.

Lack of Horizon funding hurting Swiss universities

When asked why universities in Switzerland were slipping down the ranking, a QS spokesperson told Keystone-SDA that the country’s exclusion from the Horizon European research programme, following the breaking up of Swiss negotiations with the EU,  meant that the country’s top academics and universities lost key research grants.

However, with Swiss experts now able to apply for Horizon funding, and full membership of the programme a stated goal of the government during new negotiations with the EU, it is hoped that these fortunes will soon be reversed. 

Best universities in Switzerland and worldwide

In all, here are the 10 best universities in the world, according to the latest QS ranking:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)
  2. Imperial College London (UK)
  3. University of Oxford (UK)
  4. Harvard University (US)
  5. University of Cambridge (UK)
  6. Stanford University (US)
  7. ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  8. National University of Singapore (Singapore)
  9. University College London (UK)
  10. California Institute of Technology (US)

Here’s how Swiss universities faired in the ranking:

  1. ETH Zurich (7th)
  2. EPF Lausanne (26th)
  3. University of Zurich (109th)
  4. University of Basel (131st)
  5. University of Geneva (155th)
  6. University of Bern (161st)
  7. University of Lausanne (224th)
  8. University of Italian Switzerland (405th)
  9. University of Fribourg (539th)
  10. Zurich University of Applied Sciences (781st-790th)

For more information and how other universities compare, check out the QS ranking.

Thumb image credit: freidensonsphoto / Shutterstock.com

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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