Weizmann Institute
The street entrance to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. Photo by Limor Edri
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The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot appear for the first time this year on Shanghai Jiao Tong University's list of the world’s 100 top universities.
The Technion, for a decade ranked between 101 and 150, rose to 78 following Prof. Dan Schechtman's 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Weizmann Institute also moved up from 101-150 to 93rd.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, already ranked among the top 100, rose from 57th place to 53rd. Last year, the Hebrew University jumped to 57th from 72nd after Prof. Elon Lindenstrauss won the prestigious Fields Medal in Mathematics for 2010.

The University of Haifa, which last year was in the 401-500 grouping, dropped out of the Shanghai Ranking this year.

Rankings of other Israeli universities were similar to the previous year. Tel Aviv University remained in the 101-150 group, and both Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev stayed among the 301-400 top schools.

The Weizmann Institute was a standout in ranking according to specific fields of study. It was No. 12 in computer sciences, followed by the Hebrew U's 27th and Tel Aviv U's 29th. In mathematics, Hebrew University rose to No. 16. Last year it had moved to 22nd (from the 51-76 the previous year), again due to Lindenstrauss’ award.

In chemistry, the Technion rose to No. 29, up from the 51-76 category the previous year due to Shechtman’s Nobel win.

The Shanghai Ranking also includes broader categories. Thus, in natural sciences and math, Hebrew U was 38th, one place ahead of the Technion. In engineering, technology and computer science the Technion was ranked 42.

No Israeli university cracked the top 100 in life sciences and agriculture or in clinical medical and pharmacy.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University has been ranking the top 500 universities since 2003, conducting its surveys among 1,200 universities. The ranking, which began as an attempt to evaluate Chinese universities and improve their position relative to other world institutions, uses six objective indicators, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers, number of articles published in the journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index-Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and academic achievements in relation to size.

The Shanghai Ranking, which is heavily weighted toward science in general and to the exact sciences in particular, has been criticized by many European universities which believe the system works against them.

As in the past, American universities top this year's rankings. The top five are identical: Harvard at No. 1, followed by Stanford, MIT, the University of California at Berkeley and England's Cambridge University. Oxford is No. 10, as it was last year.

“The results of the index indicate that Israel’s higher education system is back on the high road, as a world leader in academics and research,” said Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Council for Higher Education’s planning and budgeting committee. “We are in the midst of a multiyear plan for the higher education system, during which we will take on hundreds of new faculty members and researchers from the world’s top universities and research institutes, and invest hundreds of millions of shekels in developing physical and research infrastructure.

“In addition, we will be increasing cooperative research with India and China, through which dozens of leading researchers will come from there to Israel, beginning this year,” Trajtenberg added. “We will also broaden access to higher education to particular populations, including the ultra-Orthodox, minority groups, and students from the social and geographic periphery.”