In looking at the global lists, the natural question comes up - how are these universities perceived in the US and the UK?
I looked at both, and have the following observations.
1. In US, the most "famous" list is US news and world report, which is an undergraduate list. In their "national universities ranking this year, top 11 are :
1- Princetone; 2- Harvard; 3- Yale; 4- Columbia; 5-Stanford; 5-Chicago; 7-Duke; 7-MIT; 7-U Penn; 10-Caltech; 10-Dartmouth
Vs. the global list, one can clearly sees the lower reputation of tech schools (relatively low ranks of MIT and Caltech), the higher emphasis of Ivy (e.g. Columbia above Stanford, inclusion of U Penn and Dartmouth)
2. In UK, there are 3 rankings (I don't know which is more reputable):
A) Complete University guide: 1-Cambridge; 2-Oxford; 3-LSE; 4-ICL; 5-Durham; 6-St. Andrews; 7-UCL
B) Guardian: 1-Cambridge; 2-Oxford; 3-LSE; 4-St. Andrews; 5-UCL ... 9-ICL
C) Times / Sunday Times: 1-Cambridge; 2-Oxford; 3-LSE; 4-St. Andrews; 5- ICL ... 9 UCL
Vs. the global list, in UK, it is clear that Cambridge, Oxford, LSE are top 3 and in that order. ICL and UCL are clearly second-tiered.
3. In the 3 UK lists, all have a factor about entry points - which I think is publicly reported. This reflects student selectivity (I believe it is also undergrad level), which in my mind is quite important in how people develop a sense as to which universities are more exclusive, and thus better. 1 - Cambridge (610); 2 - Oxford (583); 3 - ICL (560); 4 - LSE (541); 5 - St. Andrews (521); 6 - UCL (509). This is from the Complete University guide, but the numbers and orderings are essentially the same for the two other lists.
4. US News and World Report also has a student selectivity factor. On their lists (without subscription), I can see the data on Fall 2012 acceptance rates:
1 - Harvard (6.1%); 2 - Stanford (6.6%); 3 - Yale (7.1%); 4 - Columbia (7.4%); 5 - Princeton (7.9%); 6 - MIT (9.0%); 7 - Brown (9.6%); 8 - Dartmouth (9.8%); 9 - Caltech (11.8%); 10 - U Penn (12.6%); 11 - Chicago (13.2%)
This continues the emphasis on Ivy strengths and relative weaknesses of tech schools. Specific school-wise, the strength of Yale / Columbia are quite different from the global lists I have investigated.
Using these lens of national lists and student selectivity data to look back on the global lists:
1. THE's putting Caltech on top is question, so does its ranking of Oxford above Cambridge, and its inclusion of Berkeley, UCLA and ICL.
2. QS has Cambridge right, but UCL / ICL above Oxford is clearly odd. MIT on top is also questionable.
3. ARWU got Cambridge over Oxford right, and so does its exclusion of UCL / ICL. For the US schools, the low ranking of Yale vs. high ranking of Berkeley is probably different.
So we now have a situation where among the 3 global lists, ARWU is closest to the "national" intuition, with the exception that ARWU's criteria are very focused on top academic recognitions (nobels, etc.), which tends to put graduate schools at a much higher level of importance than the US news undergrad-focused rankings.
Then, finally, if I adjust my "take-aways" from the THE's 13 list, and nudge ranks up and down based on the national undergrad lists and student selectivity considered above, I would modify things to:
Top-tier: Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge (+1)
Near-top: MIT (-1), Oxford (-1), Princeton, Yale (+1), Columbia (+1)
Next batch: Berkeley (-1), Caltech (-1), Chicago
Kicked out: UCLA, ICL
In US News:
Berkeley is number 20, Fall 2012 acceptance rate was 18.0%
UCL is number 23, Fall 2012 acceptance rate was 22.0%
So I am not even sure if Berkeley should remain on the list - despite its strong showing on the global lists.
What am I left with after these analyses? Really coming back to the formula of:
HYPMS + CO + CCC, with the potential addition of Berkeley. And Harvard is unmistakenly at the top (but with regret of no engineering), followed by Stanford / Cambridge.