Students relax at the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem.
Students relax at the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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AFP
Professor Ada Yonath receiving the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Photo by AFP

An annual study ranking the world's top universities names four of Israel's leading academic institutions in the top 150.

The Weizmann Institute of Science joined the list this year, apparently because of the Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to Ada Yonath, a Weizmann faculty member, last year.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the highest-ranked Israeli institution and the only one in the top 100, but it dropped from 64th place last year to 72nd this year. It is ranked 46th for social sciences.

This is the eighth year that China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University has compiled the rankings.

The other Israeli institutions in the top 150 are the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Tel Aviv University, which rises to the top 100 in social sciences.

"The Hebrew University is proud to be the only Israeli university in the top 100, according to the Shanghai rankings," the school said in a statement. "The university continues to place an emphasis on research excellence and the recruitment of outstanding faculty members, which make it the leading research institution in the State of Israel."

As in previous years, the study gives top grades to American universities, with just two European institutions in the top 10. Harvard University is ranked first, followed by the University of California, Berkeley. Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology round out the top four.

The University of Cambridge is ranked fifth, followed by the California Institute of Technology, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago and Oxford. Out of the top 100 colleges, 54 are American.

Among the leading European universities is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (23rd ), Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris (39th ), the University of Copenhagen (40th ), and Utrecht University (50th ). The University of Tokyo came in 20th in the rankings and Kyoto University topped out at 24th.

Aside from the improvements shown by Weizmann Institute and Hebrew University, there were no changes among the other Israeli institutions. Bar-Ilan University and Ben-Gurion University each maintained their place in the 301-400 range. The University of Haifa was ranked in the 401-500 category.

The Shanghai rankings place great emphasis on the exact sciences. The criteria include the number of Nobel laureates and winners of the Fields Medal, a prestigious prize given to mathematicians, and the number of articles published in the journals Science and Nature.

The academic rankings were first introduced as an index to compare universities in China with the leading colleges around the globe. Over time the study began gaining international attention. The study's main competitor is considered to be the British publication Times Higher Education.