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Worldly wise Swiss universities top ‘most international’ list

Classic look with a global view: the main building at ETH Zurich


Switzerland’s two federal technology institutes have claimed the top two slots in a ranking of the world’s most international universities; a third Swiss institution has ranked 15th

The magazine Times Higher Educationexternal link regularly publishes rankings as well as overall comparisons of universities worldwide. Its latest list compares internationality – that is, the proportion of international students and faculty members, as well as the share of publications published by at least one author from another country. 

Federal technology institute ETH Zurichexternal link came in first, followed by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanneexternal link (EPFL). The University of Zurichexternal link captured the 15th slot. 

“A striking feature of the upper reaches of the 150-institution table is the prominence of universities from relatively small, export-reliant countries, where English is an official language or is widely spoken,” noted the magazine on the day it released the list. “Of all the countries in the ranking, the Swiss representatives also have the greatest average proportion of international staff and internationally co-authored publications: both 62%.” 

The Top 20 also included ten British universities and three Australian, but no American institutions, although many of these regularly score very well in overall rankings. Only one school, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made it into the Top 30 most international universities. 

Marcel Tanner, president of the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciencesexternal link, believes that research institutes and universities in Switzerland and elsewhere could benefit from the current situation in the US. “Those who make an attractive offer to unsatisfied top researchers from Princeton, Harvard or Yale can sharpen their profiles,” he told the Swiss News Agency. 

But as the president of ETH Zurich said, “The situation in the US is currently not easy for the researchers, and if they have to accept further restrictions, science as a whole loses. It wouldn’t be right to speculate about the benefits of this situation today”. 

Similarly, EPFL President Martin Vetterli said, “It is possible and even likely that the attractiveness of Swiss technology institutes and universities is currently superior to those of the US because of the political context”. Yet he said that EPFL was not planning any specific measures to recruit top international researchers in response to the current situation in the US.

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