Penn, Princeton in top 15 on list of world's best universities

The University of Pennsylvania campus.

The University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University have both placed in the top 15 on this year's list of the world's best universities.

The annual rankings from Britain's Times Higher Education place Princeton as the seventh-best institution in the world and put Penn at 13th.

The University of Oxford topped this year's list. That marks the first time a university outside the United States has held the top spot in the list's 13 years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Oxford bested the California Institute of Technology, which had been ranked first for five consecutive years.

Times Higher Education touted Penn's history, expanding campus and highly accomplished graduates: "It boasts many notable 'first' landmarks on campus including the country’s first student union, double-decker college football stadium, and the world’s first collegiate business school – The Wharton School. Penn’s prowess is not restricted to just infrastructure. The university has an exhaustive list of notable alumni from all walks of life."

Of Princeton, list editors wrote: "Acclaimed for its commitment to teaching, the Ivy League institution offers residential accommodation to all of its undergraduates across all four years of study, with 98 per cent of undergraduates living on campus. [...] Princeton is also one of the world’s foremost research universities with connections to more than 40 Nobel laureates, 17 winners of the National Medal of Science and five recipients of the National Humanities Medal."

Of the top 15 schools on the list, 10 are from the United States. The top 15 are:

1. University of Oxford
2. California Institute of Technology
3. Stanford University
4. University of Cambridge
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6. Harvard University
7. Princeton University
8. Imperial College London
9. ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
10. University of California, Berkeley
10. University of Chicago
12. Yale University
13. University of Pennsylvania
14. University of California, Los Angeles
15. University College London

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh placed 23rd.

The list bases its rankings on teaching, research, research influence, innovation and international outlook, with the two resarch-focused categories accounting for a combined 60 percent of a university's score.

Oxford's takeover of the No. 1 spot was in part due to to the Cecil the Lion controversy, the Telegraph reports.

The death of the lion last summer triggered a flood of donations to the university's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, and the surge in research funding boosted Oxford's rank, according to the news outlet. Oxford researchers had been studying Cecil and other lions when he was killed by an American dentist in a high-profile hunting that sparked widespread backlash.

In other recently released college rankings, Princeton claimed first place on U.S. News & World Report's list of national universities, while Penn tied for eighth. 

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