SHANGHAI - An annual Chinese ranking of the world's top 500 universities, which was dominated by educational institutions from the United States, has stoked criticism from Europe for using criteria "biased" against European schools.
European institutions were outnumbered by their US counterparts in the annual ranking compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University's Center for World-Class Universities (CWCU).
Harvard University continued to top the ranking for the eighth successive year, followed by Berkeley, Stanford and MIT.
The highest-ranking institution in the UK was the University of Cambridge in fifth place, followed by the University of Oxford at number 10 on the list.
European media reacted strongly to the ranking, saying it had failed to accurately reflect an institution's overall performance by "focusing almost entirely on a university's achievements in scientific research", AFP reported.
First released in 2003, the Shanghai list uses criteria such as the number of staff and alumni who have won Nobel prizes and Fields medals, the number of researchers who are highly cited and the number of articles published in nature and science magazines.
Times Higher Education, a London-based magazine that publishes an annual supplement ranking the top 200 world universities, said on its website that the Shanghai list is based "almost entirely on scientific research", whereas it uses a sophisticated and transparent method to compile its own annual list.
Cheng Ying, executive director of CWCU, conceded there are "shortcomings" in the ranking's methodology, which does not lend sufficient weight to an institution's performance in the humanities.
But he said it is a technical problem, since it is much more difficult to assess an institutions' performance in the humanities than in scientific research.
Cheng also said the list is designed to compare the performance of Chinese universities and their overseas counterparts, in order to help the country create more world-class universities.
In that sense, he added, it was never intended to be used as an index for Chinese students who want to compare different institutions before they go abroad to study.