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The international university rankings confirm the excellent performance of the two Federal Institutes of Technology, which managed to maintain or improve their standing in almost every category in 2014. The scientific excellence of the two Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes, as measured by their publication activity, is shown by the results of the bibliometric studies.
International university rankings
In most of the reputable worldwide rankings, publicly available (and in some cases also specially gathered) statistical data on teaching and supervision, research, publishing activity, third-party funding, and international networking, is incorporated into the calculation of indicators. These indicators are used to produce a ranking of universities worldwide, for certain regions and/or for individual disciplines. The rankings vary in terms of the selection and the weighting of the key performance indicators used and they therefore each have a specific emphasis.
In THE World Ranking, in 2014 the ETH Zurich moved up to 13th place (2013: 14th place) and the EPFL to 34th place (2013: 37th place). In the comparison with European universities (THE Europe Ranking), in 2014 the ETH Zurich maintained its excellent position at 4th place, and the EPFL moved to 7th place.
A similar result was shown in the QS World Ranking, where the ETH Zurich maintained its 12th place, and the EPFL rose two places to 17th place. In the European comparison, the ETH Zurich kept its 5th place and the EPFL its 7th place. In the European THE and QS comparisons, the universities that are ranked higher than the two Federal Institutes of Technology are almost all English-speaking institutions from the UK.
In the ARWU ranking, the two Federal Institutes of Technology were able to improve their standing even further: ETH Zurich stands at rank 19 and EPFL takes a place in the top hundred, at rank 96.
In the Leiden ranking, which is based solely on the publication activity, EPFL stands at rank 21, ETH Zurich at rank 25. In the inner European comparison, EPFL comes in second place after the University of Cambridge, and ETH Zurich at place 5 after the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Oxford at positions 3 and 4.
A look at the rankings by subject area shows that both ETH Zurich and EPFL tend to rank higher in natural sciences and engineering than in life sciences, an area which both Federal Institutes of Technology are continuing to establish themselves and develop more strongly. Thus the two Federal Institutes of Technology are in the top twenty in natural sciences and engineering, in the THE and QS rankings. In the life sciences in these rankings, the two Federal Institutes of Technology occupy positions from 15 and 43 (ETH Zurich) resp. 43 and 137 (EPFL). The way the subject areas are defined varies greatly between the different ranking systems, so that comparisons are only possible to a limited degree.
The development of ETH Zurich and EPFL in the worldwide THE and QS rankings from 2008 to 2014 / 2010 to 2014 is remarkable: EPFL gained 33 places in the QS ranking, moving from 50th to 17th place, and ETH Zurich 12 places rising from 24th to 12th place. In the worldwide THE Ranking, since 2010 EPFL has climbed from place 48 to 34, and ETH Zurich maintains its excellent positions in the range from 12 to 15.
The Confederation’s performance mandate for the ETH Domain provides for an interim evaluation to be carried out halfway through the performance period. For this purpose, bibliometric data about the research performance of the institutions of the ETH Domain is also collected and assessed. The bibliometric analysis was commissioned, as in the previous two performance periods, by the ETH Board from the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) of Leiden University, Netherlands. It covers publications in the years 2003–2012 and citations up to 2013. Publications that are listed in the citation index of the “Web of Science” (WoS) are analysed; the research fields that each publication is allocated to are also specified.
Bibliometric analysis: final thoughts
The current bibliometric analysis confirms the results and statements of previous studies: All the institutions of the ETH Domain are carrying out research at the highest international level, and in almost every case achieve comparative rankings that are mostly well above the international average for the respective fields of research. Here a further improvement is shown for all the institutions in comparison to the last bibliometric study which was performed during the interim evaluation of 2010 (or in the case of Eawag the ability to maintain its extremely high level).
The great influence achieved by the research results of the institutions of the ETH Domain is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that publications by researchers from the ETH Domain are cited an above-average number of times in the worldwide comparison. Likewise, journals that cite publications from the ETH Domain, themselves achieve an above-average impact. Finally, the bibliometric analysis also confirms the central importance of international scientific collaboration. Thus, for all institutions it is found that the publications which are authored jointly with at least one international partner are not only the most numerous but also have a significantly greater influence than publications authored by people from the same country or by a single author.