Is Caltech stronger than MIT

Caltech: The university that overthrew Harvard

For the first time in eight years, the US elite university Harvard is no longer number one in THE rankings. The new best university in the world is the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena: younger, smaller and more specialized.

Vienna. It's a little sensation: The US elite University Harvard, a great role model for universities around the world, is no longer the best university in the world. In the current “Times Higher Education” ranking, Harvard had to give up its top spot - for the first time since the ranking began eight years ago.

A Californian university has succeeded in overthrowing the venerable university: the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech for short, based in Pasadena near Los Angeles. The two universities were already head to head in the previous year, and a seemingly profane factor may have tipped the balance for the leap up: money. For example, Caltech saw its research fund grow by 16 percent in just one year.

The new best university in the world is younger, smaller and far more specialized than Harvard: The private university was founded only 120 years ago, its focus is on natural sciences and technology, there are 300 professors for every 2,100 students. With this size, the annual budget of Caltech, which can be adorned with 32 Nobel Prizes, is 220 million euros. However, each year the equivalent of 27,000 euros tuition fee has to be paid (here, too, the Caltech is neck and neck with Harvard) - two out of three students receive scholarships.

"The secret is out"

"The university tries to attract exceptional students and teachers and then to offer them the freedom, the resources and the environment to devote themselves to the big questions and complex topics," said university rector Jean-Lou Chameau in a statement. One week before the THE ranking was published, it was already clear that this would be successful: when US President Barack Obama announced that the chemist and Caltech professor Jacqueline Barton would be among the winners of the US Science Medal.

"Caltech was one of California's best-kept secrets," said Narendra Gupta, trustee of the university foundation. “But I think that's over now. The secret is out. "

("Die Presse", print edition, 10.10.2011)