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Two of Canada’s universities ranked top 20 in the world

MONTREAL – McGill University is still a powerhouse among Canadian universities and among the top 20 in the world, according to the newest world ranking of universities – but the University of Toronto is hot on its heels.

McGill ranked 18th and U of T 19th in the 2012 QS World University Rankings, released on Monday and among the world’s most widely respected university rankings.

It was the first time ever two Canadian institutions have made the cut to rank among the top 20 universities in the world.

It was also the first time ever that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranked first in the world, while Harvard – a perennial winner between 2004 and 2009 – slipped to third place, after the University of Cambridge.

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University College London and University of Oxford rounded out the top five.

“The rise of MIT coincides with a global shift in emphasis toward science and technology,” said Ben Sowter, head of research for QS.

Closer to home, the Université de Montréal was pleased it improved its standing by 23 places to rank 114th worldwide.

U de M rector Guy Breton noted that it is one of the rare French-language institutions to achieve that kind of standing and said the ranking confirmed U de M’s place “among the great universities on the planet.”

QS World University Rankings, launched in 2004, are based on six factors: academic reputation (40 per cent); employer reputation (10 per cent); student/faculty ratio (20 per cent); citations per faculty (20 per cent); proportion of international faculty (5 per cent); and proportion of international students (5 per cent).

“We are pleased by McGill’s continued strong performance in these rankings,” said principal and vice-chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum, who applauded the fact there were three Canadian schools in the top 50 and two in the top 20.

The University of British Columbia ranked 45th, followed by the University of Alberta at 108 and then U de M.

McGill’s best showing was 12th in 2007.

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One thing that boosted U of T’s standing, according to Sowter, was an increase in international students.

“It is an undisputed research powerhouse with an outstanding international reputation,” said Sowter.

So will it unseat McGill as the best university in the country?

In fact, the two universities continually exchange the top spot depending on the ranking. In June, a QS world university ranking by subject put the U of T and UBC ahead of McGill.

Munroe-Blum has noted in the past that McGill is one-third the size of U of T and Quebec universities are known to be underfunded by about $750 million a year compared to other Canadian universities.

And it’s still McGill that is known as the Harvard of the north.

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