GLOBAL: America, UK dominate life sciences rankings

British and North American universities lead a new global ranking for medicine, biological sciences and psychology, with a sprinkling of universities from continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Far East barely breaking their near-monopoly of the life sciences.

No university in South Asia, Africa or South America features in the top 50 for any of the three disciplines covered in the first QS World University Rankings for Life Sciences in Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, while universities in continental Europe barely scrape in.

The new subject ranking was announced at a university rankings and evaluation workshop on Wednesday, immediately after the first QS-MAPLE (Middle East and Africa Professional Leaders in Education) conference and exhibition held in Dubai this week.

Harvard University heads the rankings for all three subjects, with the University of Cambridge second for medicine and psychology and third for biological sciences.

Cambridge, which recently regained its number one slot from Oxford in the UK's 2012 Complete University Guide, beat Oxford in all three disciplines but both universities achieved top four status worldwide.

Other American universities that performed well are Stanford, which is in the top five in all three subjects, MIT which is placed third in medicine and second in biological sciences, Yale which is in the top seven in the three fields, and institutions of the University of California.

The University of Tokyo makes the top 20 and National University of Singapore the top 30 for all three, and Peking University is 25th for psychology.

The leading universities in continental Europe are Sweden's Karolinska Institute (26th for medicine); ETH Zurich in Switzerland (22nd for biological sciences); and Aarhus University in Denmark (47th for psychology).

There are only two non-UK European universities (Aarhus and Trinity College Dublin) in the psychology top 50, with a similar picture (ETH Zurich and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) for biological science.

Europe outside the UK fares better in medicine with six universities in the top 50: Karolinska Institute, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Germany, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University in The Netherlands, the University of Helsinki and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.

No universities in France or in southern Europe appear in any of the top 50 rankings.

In psychology, 10 of the top 20 universities are in the US, three are in the UK (Cambridge, Oxford and University College London), three in Canada (McGill, Toronto and British Colombia), and three in Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Australian National University. The University of Tokyo is the only university outside North America, Europe and Australia in the top 20.

For medicine, 12 of the top 20 are in the US, three in the UK, two in Canada, one (Melbourne) in Australia, and one in Japan (Tokyo) with the National University of Singapore at 18th. The pattern is even more pronounced for biological sciences, with 14 of the top 20 from the US, three from the UK, two from Canada, and Tokyo the only Far East university.

The full top 200 in each subject is viewable at QS specifies the rank position only for the top 50. The next 150 down are grouped in ranges of 50. Thirty-one countries are represented in the full rankings.

QS, which has produced its world ranking of universities annually since 2004, says its new rankings by subject are a response to a demand for more 'granular' detail. Universities are ranked by academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations, with weightings tailored to each subject.

QS Rankings use citation data from Scopus, the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature and quality web sources. Its database contains abstracts and references from over 18,000 titles from more than 5,000 international publishers, ensuring broad interdisciplinary coverage.

In April QS published its first subject rankings, covering computer science, civil, chemical and electrical engineering, and mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering. Rankings covering the natural sciences, social sciences and management, and the arts and humanities are due to be published soon.

"QS subject rankings reflect cutting-edge research in life sciences, both through highly cited research papers and academic reputation," says Ben Sowter, head of the QS Intelligence Unit. "And employer evaluations correlate highly with academic opinion in these subjects."