The school jumped up from 19th place last year because of strong performance in the six indicators used by the London-based firm that has ranked universities worldwide for seven years.
"They have made good progress in the particular aspects we looked at," Ben Sowter, QS research chief said.
Michigan's premium university, located slightly more than 40 miles north of Toledo, is in a class of its own besting all other colleges and universities in Ohio and Michigan.
Ohio State University ranked 125th on the QS global list and 56th on the U.S. News and World Report domestic list. Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland placed 127 on the QS list and 41st for U.S. News and World Report.
No other Ohio universities made the QS global list, including the University of Toledo, which is a "tier two" school on the U.S. News and World Report ranking.
Bowling Green State University was ranked 170th by the magazine on its domestic list.
The QS ranking system the company uses relies on surveys of more than 15,000 academics worldwide and about 5,000 employers globally, Mr. Sowter said. It also uses audited data including citation counts from Scopus, the world's largest database of academic publishing.
He said QS measures university research quality, graduate employability, teaching commitment, and international commitment.
The University of Cambridge was the first non-American university to lead the QS World University Rankings, which were published Tuesday.
Harvard University, which had been first on the list since 2004, dropped to second place, followed by Yale University in third place.
UM fared far better on the global QS ranking than it did this year in the popular U.S. News and World Report magazine list, which only ranks U.S. universities and colleges. The magazine placed the school in 29th place for universities with three other public universities ahead of it.
U.S. News and World Report placed Harvard in first place, followed by Princeton University, and Yale in third.
The other three public universities that the magazine placed above University of Michigan were University of California-Berkeley in 22nd place; University of California-Los Angeles in 25th place, and University of Virginia, also in 25th place in a tie.
Mr. Sowter said the magazine measures schools differently than QS.
"We operate on an international level, which provides a different challenge than U.S. News," he said. "We can't use entry requirements as a measure because they are different in every country … we can't compare a GPA in the United States to the system we have here in the U.K. and the variety of other systems around the world."
Mr. Sowter added that QS takes into account the views of employers and academics, reflecting the broader interests of students and parents.
He said the firm does not look differently at public or private universities.
Rick Fitzgerald, UM spokesman, said school leadership was delighted to be listed so highly on the global list but warned students against giving the listings too much credit.
"We recognize that rankings are useful to a point, and we also believe the quality of the teaching and the quality of the faculty are really important factors," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "But students should pick a school that is important to them and not just based on the rankings."
He said scoring high in the QS surveys of employers was not surprising.
"University of Michigan students do very well in placement and getting jobs, and that is a reflection of the strong academic program at the university," Mr. Fitzgerald said.
He said other rankings seem to favor private universities.
"One of the things U.S. News uses is expenditures per student as a measure," he said. "By using expenditures as a proxy for quality, [it] actually penalizes universities like the University of Michigan that have found more efficient ways to operate without impacting the education."
The QS World University Rankings can be viewed at topuniversities.com.
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