In Depth

Top 20 universities in the UK

Two-thirds of British institutions have dropped in global higher education ranking

The rankings of British universities in international league tables have fallen for a third consecutive year as Brexit and financial cuts take their toll.

The latest annual assessment of 1,000 universities worldwide by research group QS Quacquarelli Symonds “downgrades two-thirds of the 84 UK universities” that were assessed, The Guardian reports. The drop follows similar declines in the previous years since the UK voted to quit the EU, reversing decades of strong results. 

The newly published QS World University Rankings is based a survey of 94,000 academics and 44,000 hiring managers across the globe, and an analysis of 11.8 million research papers and 100 million citations. Universities are measured on academic standing, graduate employability, student/staff ratio, research impact and internationalisation.

This year’s findings make for particularly grim viewing for Cambridge University, which slipped from sixth place to seventh, its lowest-ever position, as a result of “steadily declining research performance, as measured by citations per member of academic staff”, says the newspaper. 

Meanwhile, Oxford is still top in Europe, after rising from fifth place to fourth in the rankings, The Times reports.

However, QS director of research Ben Sowter says that the drop for Oxford rival Cambridge is “not necessarily a sign that the institution is struggling”, but instead reflects a rebalancing of spending away from research towards teaching.

“[This] should be perceived as a sensible strategic decision designed to ensure that Cambridge’s reputation for outstanding teaching and highly employable graduates continues into the future,” Sowter said. 

“Cambridge is in the unusual position of having improved its teaching capacity: 18 of the UK’s 84 universities have done so this year. It should be perceived as a sensible strategic decision.”

Further afield, US universities suffered their worst performances on record - with only 16% improving their ranking - but still claim five of the top ten slots in the table, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) first for a record eighth consecutive year.

Here is a list of the UK’s top 20 universities:

1. University of Oxford (world ranking: 4th)2. University of Cambridge (7th)3. University College London (8th)4. Imperial College London (9th)5. University of Edinburgh (20th)6. University of Manchester (27th)7. King's College London (33rd)8. London School of Economics and Political Science (44th) 9. University of Bristol (49th)10. University of Warwick (62nd)11. University of Glasgow (67th)12= Durham University (78th)12= University of Sheffield (78th) 14. University of Birmingham (81st)15. University of Leeds (93rd)16. University of Nottingham (96th)17. University of Southampton (97th)18. University of St Andrews (100th)19. Queen Mary University of London (126th)20. Lancaster University (128th)

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