ASU ranks among world's top 100 universities

August 16, 2012

The Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University this week released the 10th edition of its annual global university ranking, 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and Arizona State University once again ranks among the top 100 universities in the world.

The university first entered the Academic Rankings of World Universities (ARWU) in 2003 and achieved top 100 status in 2006. Since that time, ASU has moved up 21 spots and is ranked 79th this year. Download Full Image

The top five world universities are Harvard, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Cambridge in England.

ASU ranked 46th among all universities in the United States and 26 among all public U.S. universities.

“We are proud to see that the ARWU rankings once again reflect ASU’s ongoing commitment to research excellence and to supporting an outstanding community of faculty,” said Elizabeth D. Phillips, executive vice president 
and provost of the university.

The Academic Rankings of World Universities is considered one of the two most prominent world university rankings, along with the Times Higher Education World University Ranking.

In addition to the overall ranking, ASU was highly ranked in several other categories by general scientific field and subject matter:

• 18th in economics/business (subject)

• 20th in the social sciences (field)

• Group 51-75 in computer science (subject)

• Group 51-75 in engineering/technology/computer science (field)

• Group 76-100 in natural sciences and mathematics (field)

• Group 76-100 in physics (subject)

As opposed to more popular lists, such as the U.S. News & World Report rankings that predominantly measure average SAT scores of incoming freshmen, selectivity, average faculty compensation or student-to-faculty ratio, the ARWU measure outcomes – the achievements of alumni and faculty.

ARWU uses six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Scientific, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index - Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance with respect to the size of an institution.

In total, more than 1,000 universities are actually ranked and the best 500 are published on the website

According to the Shanghai University, the initial purpose of ARWU was to find the global standing of top Chinese universities. Since then, it has attracted a great deal of attention from universities, governments and public media worldwide. A survey on higher education published by The Economist called ARWU "the most widely used annual ranking of the world's research universities." The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that ARWU "is considered the most influential international ranking."

By country, the United States had 53 universities in the top 100; followed by the United Kingdom with 9; Australia with five; Germany, Canada, Switzerland and Japan with four; Israel, France and Sweden with three; Denmark, Netherlands with two; and Russia, Norway, Finland and Belgium with one.

Sharon Keeler

associate director, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


$3M NSF award to launch alternative energy research, PhD program

August 17, 2012

A new effort at Arizona State University to educate and train students in renewable and solar energy is receiving backing by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, the NSF is providing $3 million to ASU to help develop a doctoral program in energy and to equip students with the skills needed to find solutions to the energy challenges of the future by establishing the IGERT Solar Utilization Network (SUN) program.  ASU Professor Willem Vermaas Download Full Image

“ASU is taking a leadership role regarding research, education and policy issues in renewable energy utilization,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “We are working at the leading edge of transforming our society from a fossil-fuel-focused energy consumer to a sustainable, renewable-energy based consumer.”

The IGERT SUN program will focus on four key research areas including biological conversion, photovoltaics, solar thermal and sustainable policy. Over a period of five years, some 24 graduate students will complete in-depth core courses in these four SUN research concentrations, as well as conduct research and interact with local, national and international sustainable energy stakeholders.

The program will provide the groundwork necessary to create an energy doctoral program by 2016, offered through ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

“At ASU, we are strong in three important areas: biological energy conversion, photovoltaics and solar thermal energy conversion,” said Willem Vermaas, Foundation Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and lead scientist in the program. “Because we have those three, we are in a unique position to say, ‘Now let’s train students so they are not only experts in those areas, but also so they can understand the pros and cons of the various ways of creating alternative energy.’ We also need to teach them about the social, environmental and economic contexts of emerging solar technologies so societal transformation can happen,” he added.

Until the doctoral program is established, students will choose a PhD in a traditional degree program within engineering, the natural sciences, or the social sciences, with a concentration in energy. 

ASU’s goal is to attain 25 percent minority participation, effectively doubling the current levels in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields at ASU by recruiting underrepresented minority students through its existing, extensive network of mentorship relationships with minority education programs. 

“We are trying to build on people’s strengths, and develop their thinking and their understanding of this complex issue, so they can make contributions that others haven’t,” said Vermaas. “We want to teach students to use this type of broad training and knowledge of energy issues in their own unique ways to help secure energy supplies and improve conservation in the coming decades.”

“This is exactly the kind of transdisciplinary program we are committed to,” said Gary Dirks, director of LightWorks. “With our combined efforts, we can solve our grand energy challenges.”

LightWorks is a university initiative that pulls light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework. This effort leverages the university’s strengths, particularly in renewable energy fields including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics.

The IGERT Solar Utilization Network program begins this fall semester.

ASU’s commitment to solar

Solar energy reaching the Earth is several orders of magnitude larger than human energy consumption, and conversion of a small part of solar energy to electricity or fuels could significantly help in sustainable energy generation.

Arizona State University is a logical place for solar energy research and education. Because of its long-standing emphasis on this area starting in the 1970s, the university established the Center for the Study of Early Events in Photosynthesis (now the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis) in 1988 and the Photovoltaics Test Laboratory in 1992.

Today, the university exceeds 15 megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity, which is more than 20 percent of ASU’s peak load – and the most solar capacity of any university in the United States. ASU’s goal is to reach a university-wide total of 20 MW of solar energy capacity by 2014.

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences