Hebrew University Tess Scheflan 9.12.08
A class at Hebrew University. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem climbed to 57th place in the annual university rankings published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China - a sharp rise from 72nd place last year.

The primary reason for the jump was Prof. Elon Lindenstrauss's 2010 Fields Medal, considered the world's most prestigious award in mathematics. Lindenstrauss is the first Israeli to win the award.

Hebrew University is the only Israeli institution to appear in the top 100 on the Shanghai list, which is considered one of the most important global university ranking systems.

Israel's other universities remained unchanged in their rankings: The Weizmann Institute, the Technion and Tel Aviv University all fell between 101 and 150; Bar-Ilan and Ben-Gurion universities were in the 301-400 cluster, and the Unversity of Haifa was in the 401-500 group.

The Shanghai index also ranked individual departments, with Israel gaining particular recognition this year in the field of computer science: The Weizmann Institute ranked 11th worldwide, up from 12th last year; the Technion was 15th, unchanged from last year; Hebrew University was 26th, down five places; and Tel Aviv was 28th, up three places.

Israel also did well in math, with Hebrew University jumping to 22nd place worldwide - again, thanks mainly to Lindenstrauss's Fields Medal. Last year, Hebrew University was in the 51-75 group. Tel Aviv dropped to 32nd place from 26th last year, while the Technion was once again in the 51-75 group.

In economics and business administration, Hebrew University fell from 44th place last year into the 51-75 group.

A third section of the rankings deals with broader fields. In the math and natural sciences field, Hebrew University ranked 35th, while Weizmann and the Technion both made the 51-75 group - a decline for Weizmann, which was 46th last year. In the engineering, technology and computer science field, the Technion ranked 42nd, down four places from last year.

In social sciences, Hebrew University was in the 51-75 group, down from 46th last year, while Tel Aviv University was in the 76-100 group, as it was last year. However, no Israeli university made the top 100 in life sciences and agriculture or in medicine and pharmacology.

American universities led the rankings, as they do every year, with Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Berkeley capturing the first four places, respectively. Altogether, 17 of the top 20 universities were American, with England's Cambridge and Oxford taking fifth and tenth place, respectively.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University has been surveying 1,000 universities and ranking the top 500 since 2003. According to Agence France-Presse, the ranking system gives great weight to scientific research, especially in the exact sciences, but European universities claim it is biased against them.