So why is MIT number one in the world university rankings?

It’s topped the world university rankings for the second year running, but what gives Massachusetts Institute of Technology the wow factor?

Long-term Ivy League rival Harvard may only lurk two miles down the road, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology is on top of the world rankings. That's a far cry from six years ago when it could only manage tenth place. But what propels it to the top of the list?

Widely known as MIT, the Institute admitted its first batch of freshmen in 1865 following an effort by reputed natural scientist William Barton Rogers to found an educational establishment with a focus on the practicality of industrialising America.

Today, MIT’s five schools and one college house 34 academic departments along with world-class laboratories and numerous other facilities. Tellingly, its strengths lie in the fields of engineering, science and technology, and its exclusivity involving which students they accept - roughly one in 17 - means that only the very best make the cut.

But Harvard, Stanford and the rest of the universities in the top 10 can all boast of similar things. MIT’s real selling point is its expertise at transforming the buds of its students’ technology ideas into hugely successful businesses. Described by Bill Clinton as having ‘the best technology-transfer program in the country’, MIT graduates have started thousands of companies in what they term their own ‘living lab’.

In 2011 alone, 694 inventions were born at MIT, according to the university’s own Technology Licensing Office. Creations join a diverse range, from email, digital ink and the spreadsheet to nuclear fission, PET scans and the disposable razor. The man behind the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, is one of MIT’s professors - can you get much better than that?

Alumni of MIT include Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon; Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general; Edwin Land, creator of the Polaroid camera; and 78 staff and students who have won the Nobel Prize.

Mechanical, scientific and engineering creativity and expertise thrive at MIT, arguably more than in any other educational institution worldwide. Staff are so determined to bring out their prodigies’ genius that pranks, known as ‘hacks’ in the community, are rarely punished and instead, actively encouraged. Such hacks have in the past included one student presenting a tribute to Apple founder Steve Jobs by replacing a clock tower with the Apple logo, and another involving a fire engine being placed on top of the university’s Great Dome in remembrance of 9/11.

There’s no doubting that Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford, Yale and Oxford have affirmed themselves as world class universities but, yet again, they find themselves falling in MIT’s vast technological shadow.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

FDM Group: Business and Technical IT Consultants – London, Manchester, Glasgow

21,000-24,000: FDM Group: Kick-start your career and join FDM’s award-winning ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there