Four Israeli universities ranked in world’s top 300

Hebrew U. is Israel’s highest, at 138 on list; Ben-Gurion jumps 39 spots to rejoin the club after 6 years

Ben-Gurion University campus, August 2014. (Dani Machlis)
Ben-Gurion University campus, August 2014. (Dani Machlis)

Four Israeli universities are among the 300 best in the world, according to an influential world ranking, with Ben-Gurion University leaping into the club after being left out for years.

The QS World University Rankings, which take into account research, teaching, graduate employability, and international outlook, were released on Tuesday.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was named the best university in Israel, coming in 138th overall — just behind Dartmouth College and just ahead of the University of Virginia. The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology was Israel’s next highest, at 190th, followed by Tel Aviv University, at 195th, and Ben-Gurion University, at 292nd.

While the top three Israeli universities stayed more or less where they were on the list last year, Ben-Gurion University moved up 39 spots, from 331st. In 2012, the university was nearly 100 spots lower, at 385th. The last time the university was in the top 300 was in 2008.

“With all the criticism of ranking systems, it is an international measurement that the higher education system and the public assiduously follow each year,” said Ben-Gurion University President Prof. Rivka Carmi. “We are pleased that the sense of advancement and development that we feel is bolstered by an international objective opinion.”

The QS World University Rankings, which have come out annually since 2004, ranks more than 800 universities around the world from a pool of more than 3,000. Universities’ scores are based half on global surveys of reputation among academics and employers and half on hard data. The data measures faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, and international-student and faculty ratios.

Ben-Gurion University’s rise in the ranking was mostly due to boosts in its international reputation among academics and employers. In both categories, the university went from unranked last year to 401st this year. It was also ranked the Israeli university with the most international faculty and student body.

Earlier this year, QS put Ben-Gurion University on its Top 50 Under 50, a list of the top 50 universities in the world established in the past 50 years. The university opened its gates in 1969 to promote the development of the Negev region in line with the vision of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

“Despite our youth in comparison with leading universities in Israel and abroad, we are very much present on the international academic stage with a respectable ranking which will only improve in the future,” said Carmi.

Ben-Gurion University’s highest ranking, 282nd, was in engineering and technology — though it was still ranked behind the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in the field.

Noting the rise of science- and technology-focused universities in the rankings, QS suggests that such universities have been uniquely able to attract the funding needed for big research, on one hand, and small classes, on the other.

“In the wake of the recession, both governments and private sector funding sources are placing greater emphasis on high-impact STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] research, much of which takes place in specialist institutions,” said Ben Sowter, head of research at QS. “Tech-focused institutions are increasingly the focal point of a global race for innovation.”

Ben-Gurion University is a partner in a new national cyber initiative based in the Advanced Technologies Park in Beersheba. As part of the initiative, the university is working with the government, the municipality, the Israel Defense Forces, and leading multinational high-tech corporations on cyber research, education, and business development. A nonprofit company, called the CyberSpark Industry Initiative, was launched on Tuesday to coordinate the initiative.

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