First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 03:35 PM ET

This week, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) published its 2009 list of the best 500 universities. The annual ranking, which is in its seventh year, began at Shanghai Jiao Tong University as an attempt to measure the performance of Chinese post-secondary education relative to the rest of the world. But according to The Economist, it's since become "the most widely used annual ranking of the world's research universities."

Which isn't to say the ARWU methodology is without its critics. One researcher reported that the results "cannot be reproduced," and others have pointed out that the criteria used to determine the ranking, which include counting how many Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals have been won, as well as the number of articles published in Nature and Science, by staff and graduates, skew the results toward science and math.

The ARWU compiles an overall ranking, but it also breaks out each university's performance in five subject fields (math, physics, chemistry, computer science, and economics/business) as well as in five broader fields (natural sciences and math, engineering/technology and computer sciences, life and agriculture sciences, clinical medicine and pharmacy, and social sciences).

Here are the top eleven universities in the world, according to the overall ranking. Which university is world's best? Vote for your favorite below:

#3 University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

Berkeley took the number-four spot for the first four years of the ranking, but since 2003 has been ranked third best. According to ARWU, the university's strengths are in math and chemistry -- where it came in second -- and computer science, where it ranked third. In physics, the university was fifth, and in economics it was sixth.
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Filed by Grace Kiser  |