A closer look at the QS Subject Rankings for Computer Science and Information Systems

by Danny Byrne

MIT tops the table in the first ever international subject ranking for Computer Science and Information Systems, ahead of Stanford and Cambridge. The US dominates the top of the table, with Berkeley and Harvard also in the top five, and Caltech, UCLA and Carnegie Mellon joining them in the top ten. The US has long led the way in information technology – from Microsoft to Apple, Google to Facebook – and the excellence of its universities in this area provides a formidable base for its dominance.

Electrical engineering and computer science is the most popular department in MIT’s mighty faculty of engineering, ranked by US News and World Report as the best in the nation at both undergraduate and postgraduate level every year since 1994. At undergraduate level electrical engineering and computer science between them account for over 25% of MIT’s undergraduate body, and at postgraduate and faculty level the department has been at the forefront of technological innovations from cybernetics and computer languages to robotics and artificial intelligence.

Interestingly, if we take citations per faculty in isolation, it is not MIT but Caltech that comes out on top, with MIT in 26th place. However, the academic reputation indicator suggests that it is the quality of MIT’s output that counts. The university scores the maximum 100 in our sliding scale, meaning it was identified as world-leading in this area of research by a greater number of academics than any other university.

Prospective undergraduates will note that the University of Cambridge is number one in the eyes of employers, with Oxford (ranked 6th overall), Harvard, MIT and Stanford joining it in the top five for this criterion. Part of this may be due to an established reputation for excellence that means employers target the UK’s two oldest universities across discipline areas. It also reflects Oxbridge’s intensive approach to undergraduate teaching that helps equip graduates with skills that lead them to thrive in the workplace.

The US and UK whitewash is broken by University of Toronto at number ten. Though ranked second in Canada to McGill in the overall QS World University Rankings in 2010, Toronto has long been a pioneer in computing technology. The university developed some of the world’s earliest computers, and was more recently responsible for the development of multi-touch technology.

Home to CERN, one of the world’s most important hubs for engineering, particle physics and information systems research, Switzerland occupies a place at the cutting edge of information technology. Two Swiss universities make it into the top 20 – ETH Zurich (11) and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (19=) – placing the nation at the head of the pack in continental Europe.

Meanwhile, Asia’s top performer was National University of Singapore at 12, while University of Melbourne (19=) was the only Australian representative in the top 20. Melbourne’s strong reputation among employers was reflected in a rank of 9th in this measure.

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