For the last two years, Duke has climbed in the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings—rising from 29 in 2016 to 21 in 2018.

With Wednesday’s release of the 2019 tally, however, the University’s climb faltered.

Duke dropped five spots, from being tied with the University of Michigan at 21 to being in sole possession of the 26 spot on the list, as Michigan climbed one spot to 20.The QS World University Rankings include schools from all around the globe and were topped for a seventh consecutive year by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"International rankings like QS focus heavily on research and tend to change their criteria more frequently, thus have more movement on a year-to-year basis than US News (Duke has bounced between 20 and 29 just since 2012)," wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations in an email. "Still, this is one valuable data point among many that we use to benchmark against the top research universities in the world." 

Duke is now sandwiched between the University of Hong Kong at 25 and the University of California, Berkeley at 27. Duke’s ranking in recent years topped out at 20 in 2012. 

The methodology used to calculate the rankings blends reputation with academics. It weighs academic reputation at 40 percent, while placing faculty-student ratio and paper citations per faculty at 20 percent each. It gives 10 percent weight to employer reputation and 5 percent each to international faculty and international student ratios.

The University was given an overall score of 83.9 out of 100. It scored high marks for the faculty-student ratio, academic reputation and the citations faculty earned, but it scored poorly in international faculty. 

The QS World University Rankings system is the only ranking to have earned the approval of the International Ranking Expert Group

Aside from MIT, the other universities that made the top five were Stanford University, Harvard University, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford,—in that order. 

"As we continue to make significant investments in science and technology and grow our global research activity, I expect that will be recognized in future rankings," Schoenfeld wrote.