For the first time, three Israeli universities have been ranked among the world’s top 100 academic institutions, according to the authoritative 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities released today. The ranking is conducted annually by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and is called the Shanghai Ranking.

It is considered the most reliable of all world university rankings.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been ranked 53rd-best university in the world. The listing includes the top 500 from among more than 1,000 universities evaluated around the world.

Receiving its highest rating since the rankings were introduced in 2003, the HU moved up four spots from its 57th place showing last year.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa ranked 78th best, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot was ranked in 93rd place.

A total of six Israeli institutions were among the top 500, with Tel Aviv University ranked among the 101 to 150 best, and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba ranked among the 301 to 400 best.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in commenting on the Shanghai Ranking, stated that “this proves that the government’s unprecedented investment in Israeli academia brings results. We are investing NIS 7 billion in the universities in a multiyear program, in centers of excellence and in bringing back Israeli academics who left the country.”

Netanyahu added that “our efforts have been fruitful. I am especially happy over the high ranking of Israeli institutions of higher learning in computer sciences, with four of them among the leading 30 institutions in the world.

That’s another sign that Israel continues to establish itself as a world hi-tech power.”

The prime minister said that “the government I head will continue to invest in education – from kindergartens through higher education.”

Topping the list were the US universities of Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Hebrew University tied with the top German institution (Technical University Munich) at number 53. It also came out ahead of the US Ivy League’s Brown University, McGill University (traditionally referred to as “the Harvard of Canada”), the London School of Economics and Political Science, The Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris and other prestigious institutions.

In addition to the general ranking, universities were also ranked according to individual academic subjects and fields of study. In academic subjects, the Hebrew University was ranked 16th in the world in mathematics, 27th in computer science, in the top 51 to 75 in physics and in the top 101 to 150 in economics and business.

The Hebrew University was also ranked 38th in the world in the natural sciences and mathematics, in the top 51 to 75 in the social sciences, in the top 101 to 150 in clinical medicine and pharmacy and in the top 101 to 150 in life and agriculture sciences.

Hebrew University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson said: “I am proud that several of Israel’s research universities are ranked among the world’s top achievers in this important international ranking, and that once again the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been ranked the leader in Israel. [Its] mission is to be the leading research institution in Israel and among the leaders worldwide, and our upward trend attests that the university’s academic community is meeting this challenge despite the financial difficulties it faces,” Ben-Sasson said.

“The fact that the university continues be so highly ranked is a testament to their hard work and continued striving for excellence, and I am proud to head an institution that has such values.

Our ambition is to see HU recognized among the top universities in the world, but this depends greatly on the continued flow of funds to the higher education system and investment in research universities in Israel,” he said.

The Technion was proud at its jump to 29th in the world in chemistry, 42nd in engineering and 18th in computer sciences. The Haifa institution was ahead of all European universities in these fields.

Only last year, the Technion had a general ranking of between the 101 to 150 best universities. In the natural sciences, it rose from 51 to 75 to the very respectable place of 39. In the past year Technion Prof. Dan Shechtman received a Nobel Prize in chemistry.