The rankings trended on Facebook and Twitter, while nearly 2,000 media outlets around the world reported the results. There were 750,000 page views on the topuniversities.com website in three days.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, received a personal copy of the rankings. He was the latest national leader to receive a briefing on QS rankings. Both the Prime Minister and President of India, Narendra Modi and Pranab Mukherjee, have done so in recent months.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) topped the ranking for the third year in a row, but UK universities presented the nearest challenge. Cambridge and Imperial College London tied for second place, with Harvard fourth.
The QS World University Rankings are global news in their own right, appearing in media across the world on and just after publication day. But they do have some especially distinguished readers.
Here we see Ashwin Fernandes of QS Asia handing a first-day copy of the 2014/15 Rankings to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Also present at the meeting was the deputy prime minister, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and Dr Ali Al Noami , vice chancellor of the UAE University. The university is up 42 plaaces to 385 in the new Rankings. Ashwin also handed over a plaque detailing the Rankings results of all UAE universities.
With Oxford and University College London tying for fifth place, it was a vintage year for UK universities. Seven finished in the top 30, the most since the QS rankings were first published in 2004.
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, tweeted his congratulations, while Greg Clark, the new Business Innovation and Skills Secretary said the ranking demonstrated that the UK was punching above its weight on research.
A total of 31 countries were represented in the top 200; where the US is the dominant nation, with 51 institutions, ahead of the UK (29), Germany (13), the Netherlands (11), Canada (10), Japan (10) and Australia (eight).
The leading places in the ranking underlined the success of technological universities in recent years. Three appeared in the first eight positions, including top-placed MIT.
Ben Sowter, the QS head of research, said: “In the wake of the recession, both governments and private sector funding source are placing greater emphasis on high-impact STEM research, much of which takes place in specialist institutions. Tech-focused institutions are increasingly the focal point of a global race for innovation. With budgets from public sources increasingly coming under strain, institutions seem more focused than ever on potentially lucrative research in science, technology and medicine.”
The top ten fastest risers since 2009 are: MIT, Sungkyunkwan University (Korea), EPFL (Switzerland), Stanford, LMU München, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Korea University, Zhejiang University (China), Queen Mary, University of London and ETH Zurich. Eight of these institutions feature key strengths in science and technology.
In the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published in August, MIT moved up to third in a year of more changes than usual in the top 20. Harvard was top for the twelfth time in a row, however, with Stanford second.