MONTREAL - McGill University has placed first among Canadian schools and 17th overall worldwide in an annual survey released Monday.

McGill moved up two spots in the QS World University Rankings for 2011, and has consistently cracked the top 25 since the survey launched eight years ago.

The University of Toronto came in at 23rd place, up six spots from a year earlier, while the University of British Columbia dropped seven spots to No. 51.

McGill's principal and vice-chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum said she was pleased with the result.

"McGill's consistently strong performance in these rankings is particularly gratifying, reflecting the University's outstanding contributions in teaching, research and innovation across a broad range of academic fields," she said in a statement.

The University of Cambridge in England retained the No. 1 spot in the ranking, ahead of Harvard.

At No. 137, the Universite de Montreal was the highest-ranking French language university in Canada.

The QS World University Rankings, produced by the British company Quacquarelli Symonds, was launched in 2004.

It's considered among the most respected in the field, though such surveys remain controversial.

The Times Higher Education study, another high-profile annual survey, had previously been produced as a partnership between the magazine and Quacquarelli Symonds.

Last year, the Times Higher Education study announced it would part company with QS, citing weaknesses in the company's ranking methodology.

The University of Toronto placed 17th in last year's Times study, with the University of British Columbia coming next at spot 30. McGill University ranked 35th.

The QS World University Rankings are based on six factors: academic reputation (40 per cent); employer reputation (10 per cent); student/faculty ratio (20 per cent); citations per faculty (20 per cent); international faculty (5 per cent); international students (5 per cent).