GLOBAL: Rankings rate success in getting top jobs

Japan's University of Tokyo and the US universities of Harvard and Stanford retain their leading places in the third annual Professional Ranking of World Universities compiled by the French grande école Mines Paris Tech.

Despite past criticisms, Mines Paris Tech continues to assess institutions on a single criterion: the number of graduates who hold the most senior post - chief executive or equivalent - in the leading 500 international companies as classified by the Fortune Global 500 of Fortune magazine.

The ranking pieces together the higher education careers of the CEOs of Fortune's top international companies, led this year by WalMart, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Toyota Motor. Points are then assigned to the higher education institutions concerned.

After the universities of Tokyo, Harvard and Stanford, the highest scorers out of 377 institutions cited, the rankings include the University of Oxford in seventh place and Cambridge at joint 28th. HEC, France's top business school, came in sixth and ENA, the elite administration school, 10th. Mines Paris Tech rates itself 18th, two places higher than last year.

Tianjin University, at 28th, is China's highest ranking university, and the University of Queensland is Australia's, placed 89th.

The top 15 higher education institutions, each attended by four or more company heads, comprise five US institutions, four French, four Japanese, one Korean and one British.

As in the two previous years, France performs better in Mines Paris Tech's rankings than in others such as Shanghai's Jiao Tong University or the Times Higher Education-QS. Explanations for France's mediocre performance in these include that their criteria give greater weighting to indicators such as research - which in France is often credited to specialised organisations rather than to the partner universities - and to numbers of Nobel and Fields medal winners.

Commentators have criticised Mines Paris Tech's methodology which uses only one criterion. But the school says this is intended to present a companies' equivalent to the criterion of alumni who have obtained the Nobel prize or Fields medal used in the rankings of Jiao Tong University. The difference is that it puts the accent on the educational achievements of the institutions rather than their research achievements .

Interviewed in the online higher education publication Educpros, Nicolas Cheimanoff, director of studies of Mines Paris Tech, explained the aims of the rankings: "In France we were challenged into taking action, to say we could not base arguments exclusively on the Shanghai ranking and construct higher education policy solely on this ranking.

"We wanted to show at an international level that France is a country where you can study. Our ranking gives visibility to a school, but also to the system of French higher education as a whole."

Cheimanoff said Mines Paris Tech had been in contact with Professor Liu, originator of the Shanghai rankings, to suggest Jiao Tong should incorporate the Mines criterion. "He was a priori in favour but only if we included the academic careers of company heads since 1920 as he did for the Nobel prizewinners. But that's totally impossible."