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US top of the class for teaching computer science

The US is the best country in the world to be taught computer science according to an international study but some rivals like Japan and China are catching up in leaps and bounds.

The US continues to be the best country in the world to learn computer science, although rivals including  Japan and China are jumping up the rankings.

Six out of the world's top 10 universities for teaching computer science are US institutions, according to the QS World University Rankings.

Number one for the second year running is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), while Stanford holds onto second place and Carnegie Mellon University rises from ninth to third. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) drops out of the top ten this year, falling 20 places to 27th.

A spokeswoman for QS said the US continues to be one of the most attractive destinations in the world to study computer science: "As far as computing is concerned, the US is, or is at least perceived to be, the centre of all knowledge. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter are amongst the most desirable environments to work in today and all are headquartered in the US."

"Twitter was conceived when Jack Dorsey was at NYU, Facebook when Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard, Kevin Systrom and Michel Krieger of Instagram met at Stanford. Rightly or wrongly, the US remains the most attractive destination for the world's elite computer scientists and the principal melting pot for online innovation."

Elsewhere in the world the universities climbing the international rankings fastest between 2011 and 2012 were concentrated around China and Japan.

The most improved institution in the top 50 was The University of Tokyo climbing 24 places to number 11. Meanwhile The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, jumps 13 places to 13th, while Peking and Tsinghua universities in China leap 10 and 8 places respectively to joint 35th.

Singapore consolidated its strong position in the list, with the National University of Singapore climbing three places to number nine, and Nanyang Technological University entering the top 50 for the first time at number 26.

India fared less well, with the only two Indian universities in the top 50 last year, the Indian Institutes of Technology in Dehli and Bombay, dropping below that level.

The UK has six universities in the top 50, with Oxford and Cambridge in the top 10, although Cambridge slipped from third to seventh place between 2011 and 2012.

Dr Tom Crick, senior lecturer in computer science at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said that the UK’s rankings could largely be explained by years of “chronic” government underfunding of the provision of computer science degrees and the state of IT teaching in schools during the past 10 years.

The UK government recently scrapped the national curriculum for IT, which had long been criticised for putting children off a career in computing with its focus on dull office skills. The government wants to revive student interest in IT as for the past 10 years no more than three per cent of undergraduates in the UK have chosen to study computer science.

The QS international rankings are based on surveys of 33,000 academics and 16,000 business people about the reputations of the universities, as well the number of citations each institution has in academic papers. A spokesman for QS said that the organisation has refined the methodology it uses to compile the rankings between 2011 and 2012.

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2012 Engineering & Technology - Computer Science

University Ranking
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 1
Stanford University 2
Carnegie Mellon University 3
University of California, Berkeley (UCB) 4
Harvard University 5
University of Oxford 6
University of Cambridge 7
ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) 8
National University of Singapore (NUS) 9
Princeton University 10


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.