130 universities in Europe were singled out in the Center for Higher Education Development (CHE) ExcellenceRanking as offering outstanding, research-strong departments with an international orientation for master’s and doctoral students wishing to study the subjects of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Mathematics.
Eight criteria were important for selection:
- Number of publications in the Web of Science;
- Number of citations;
- Outstanding researchers (e.g., Nobel Prize winners, winners of the Körber European Science Award, and Fields medallists in mathematics);
- Number of projects in the Marie Curie programme;
- Student mobility;
- Teaching staff mobility;
- Presence of Erasmus Mundus master’s programmes;
- Researchers with an European Research Council (ERC) Grant;
In a second step, these institutions were analysed in-depth and presented in detail. The CHE ExcellenceRanking collected information on master’s and doctoral study programmes, including facts about the research groups and their emphases as well as on the size of the faculties, terms of admission and accommodation facilities. Current students also shared their judgments regarding student conditions for the benefit of prospective students.
With respect to the number of universities from each country with at least one “excellent” department, the United Kingdom is leading the list, followed by Germany and The Netherlands.
The table below shows the distribution of Chemistry departments across the countries.
The United Kingdom is also leading the group of universities which are excellent in all four subjects (biology, chemistry, mathemathics, physics) with seven universities. The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, France and the much smaller Switzerland follow with two universities each.
The only university which received exellency in all four subjects from the students is the Imperial College London. ETH Zürich and University of Nijmengen follow with three.
There have been many criticisms about the ranking. Among them:
- The number of papers does not relate to the quality of the research;
- The questions on the survey were not well choosen;
- Students tend to vote for their own university and might not have a broad view.
The Conference of University Rectors of Switzerland and Austria have recommended to not take part in the CHE Ranking in the future and some departments in Germany will not take part in the ranking anymore.