CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Harvard retains the crown as top university for the eighth year in an annual ranking of the world's universities which is dominated by the United States but shows China's performance improving.
The 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), published since 2003 by the Center for World-Class Universities of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said the United States dominates the list with eight in the top 10 and 54 in the top 100.
Joining Harvard in the top 10 were the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; California Institute of Technology; Princeton; Columbia and Chicago. Yale came 11th.
The best ranked British universities were Cambridge, slipping to fifth place from fourth last year, and Oxford retaining the 10th position. Overall the number of British universities in the top 500 rankings dropped to 38 from 40.
But the ranking, initially set up to find the global standing of Chinese universities, showed Asian universities were advancing up the list with 106 from the Asia Pacific region making the top 500 and Chinese universities performing better.
"While the ranking methodology has been kept the same, the number of top 500 Chinese universities reaches 34 in 2010, which is more than double that in 2004 (16)," Shanghai Jiao Tong University said in a statement.
Chinese universities in the top 200 included Peking; Tsinghua and Chinese University of Hong Kong.
National Taiwan University in Taiwan was also in the list.
The ARWU uses six indicators to rank universities globally including the number of alumni and staff with Nobel prizes, the number of highly cited researchers, the number of articles published and cited in top journals and the per capita performance with respect to size of the institution.
Ranking more than 1,000 universities every year with 500 published online, the list focuses heavily on achievements in scientific research.
From the Asia-Pacific region, the top performer was Tokyo University which was again listed in 20th place followed by Kyoto in 24th position. However Japan's overall performance was weaker with just 25 universities in the top 500, down from 31 last year.
From Australia, the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra was ranked in 59th place and Melbourne moved up to 62nd position from 75 on the back of alumna Elizabeth Blackburn winning the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Universities from Middle East countries also made progress in the 2010 list.
Saudi Arabia had two in the top 500 -- King Saud University and King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals of Saudi Arabia -- compared to just one last year.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Steve Addison)