ETH Zurich ranked as the best university outside the UK and USA

ETH Zurich ranked as the best university outside the UK and USA

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or ETH Zurich has retained its place as one of the top 10 universities in the world, according to the new World University Ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). ETH remains only one of two institutions outside the United States and the United Kingdom to feature in the top 10, while other universities in Switzerland have started to fall down the order.

QS World University Ranking 2024

To create the World University Ranking for 2024, QS analysed 1.500 institutes of higher education in 104 countries around the world. Unlike the Times University Ranking, QS’s metrics focus on sustainability and how likely attendees are to find jobs after they graduate.

17,5 million academic papers and the opinions of over 240.000 academics and business owners were analysed, with the results incorporated into scores out of 100 for a number of categories. These are:

  • Academic reputation
  • Employer reputation
  • Faculty-to-student ratio
  • Academic citations per faculty
  • The ratio of domestic to international students and faculty
  • International research 
  • Employment outcomes
  • Sustainability

The score in each category is weighted and then incorporated into an overall score out of 100. This year, QS placed significant emphasis on the new category of sustainability, as well as employment outcomes and international networks. They argued that in the “evolving” world of academia, much more emphasis has been placed on securing graduate careers both at home and internationally, and doing so in an environmentally sustainable way.

MIT the best university in the world for 12th year running

For 2024, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology celebrated its 12th consecutive year as number one in the QS ranking. MIT was given perfect scores in all but the international students, research network and sustainability categories.

In the battle of the academic Boat Race, it was the University of Cambridge that came out a length ahead placing second, while the University of Oxford jumped Stanford University to rank third for 2024. Of the top 10, eight were evenly distributed among the US and UK, while the National University of Singapore became just the second non-US / UK university to break into the top 10.

ETH retains spot as best university outside of UK and USA

Coming in seventh place - an improvement of two places compared to the year before - was ETH in Zurich. With 21 Nobel Prize winners calling the university their alma mater, including one Albert Einstein, it’s perhaps unsurprising that ETH earnt its highest scores for its high academic reputation, sheer output of research and the number of international students it welcomes into its ranks.

However, the university did not do as well when it came to the ratio of faculty to students. Finally, while it may provide world-beating qualifications, ETH was seen as unable to provide as bountiful a job market as others in the top 10.

Swiss universities struggle in latest QS ranking

ETH Zurich’s success capped off what was a disappointing analysis for Swiss universities, with its sister university in Lausanne (EPFL) losing 20 places in the ranking to place 36th. The University of Zurich, Switzerland’s third-best university, dropped eight places to 91st. 

Of the 10 Swiss universities analysed by QS, six have seen their position fall in the last year - ETH Zurich, the University of Basel (136th to 124th), the University of St. Gallen (501 - 510th to 436th) and the University of Fribourg (571 - 580th to 563rd) were the institutes that saw their scores rise. The most significant fall was recorded by the University of Italian Switzerland in Ticino, which saw its position plummet from 240th to 328th.

Switzerland leads in research but struggles with employability

Speaking to Watson, QS explained that “Switzerland's slight general decline seems to be attributable to the fact that it is struggling to spread its obvious quality in the world and in particular in the labour market.” Despite offering high salaries to students once graduated, Swiss universities’ allure has started to decline for both employers and academics. The introduction of the new sustainability score has also hit Swiss institutions hard.

However, the newspaper concluded that there are positives to draw from the report. Universities in the alpine nation were found to be a the forefront of research - when measured by the number of citations produced by the country per capita. Swiss scores in other categories, such as the ratio of staff to students, have also started to improve.

10 best universities in the world and Switzerland

In all here are the 10 best universities in the world for 2024, according to QS:

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

 Here's how Swiss universities fared in the ranking:

  1. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology or ETH Zurich (7th)
  2. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne or EPFL (36th)
  3. University of Zurich (91st)
  4. University of Basel (124th)
  5. University of Bern (126th)
  6. University of Geneva (128th)
  7. University of Lausanne (220th)
  8. University of Italian Switzerland (328th)
  9. University of St. Gallen (436th)
  10. University of Fribourg (563rd)

For more information about the study, check out the QS website.

Thumb image credit: aldorado /

Jan de Boer


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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