SHANGHAI - A ranking of the world's top schools compiled by a Chinese university has put Harvard first for the tenth year, in a list dominated by US institutions. The rankings of the world's top 500 universities, released by Shanghai's Jiaotong University on Wednesday, have previously provoked controversy for placing an emphasis on scientific research. Harvard University has taken the top spot for the life of the survey, which was started in 2003. Of the top 20 schools in 2012, only three were outside the United States, including Britain's Cambridge in fifth and Oxford in 10th. The top Asian school was the University of Tokyo in 20th place. The annual list uses six indicators, including the number of Nobel prizes and Fields medals.

The top five this year was rounded out by Stanford University in second, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in third and the University of California at Berkeley in fourth.

For Continental Europe, the highest ranked was the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich in 23rd place, followed by two French schools, the University of Paris-Sud 11 at 37 and Pierre and Marie Curie University at 42.

The list was originally conceived to benchmark the performance of Chinese universities, amid efforts by Beijing to create a set of world-class research institutions.

But some European officials say the criteria neglect the humanities and are thus biased against Europe's universities.

Greater China - including mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong - has no universities in the top 100 but is second for the number of schools in the top 500 with 42, according to a statement released with the rankings.

Mainland China's top ranked school was prestigious Peking University, which was in the top 200, closely followed by Jiaotong itself, beating out Tsinghua University, which is often called China's MIT.