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.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Year 1 Teacher

£12 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education require a year ...

Primary Teacher - Hull

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Are you a flexible and inspiratio...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried