In Brief

Top 20 universities in the UK

Two in five UK universities saw their ranking drop in international league table 

Five British universities are among the 20 best universities in the world, according to an international league table. 

Only one university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), came ahead of the University of Oxford, taking the top spot in this year’s Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings

The University of Cambridge climbed to joint-third place, alongside Stanford University. It was a rise for Cambridge, which languished for two years at seventh place, its lowest ever ranking. It made gains as a result of its “research impact, high levels of global collaboration and teaching capacity”, according to the London Evening Standard.

Of the 90 British universities ranked by QS, 28 improved their position over the past year. London-based institutions Imperial College London and University College London (UCL) rose to seventh and joint eighth place respectively, while the University of Manchester saw its highest-ever ranking on the league table, placed in the 27th spot.

But a significant number of UK universities saw their rankings drop in the league tables - 36 universities, or 40%, saw their positions fall as compared to their positions last year. 

The QS World University Rankings is based on a survey of 94,000 academics and 44,000 hiring managers across the globe, and 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 is the largest ever ranking, featuring 1,300 universities, including 145 new ones, from 97 locations across the globe.

Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, said it was “no accident” that the most internationally collaborative universities enjoyed success in the rankings.

“As British higher education navigates its post-Brexit future, this lesson should not be ignored,” he said.

He added: “Perhaps no British research success story has captured the public imagination to the extent that the University of Oxford’s role in developing the ChAdOx1 vaccine has – and quite rightly.”

Top 20 UK universities

1. University of Oxford (world ranking: 2) 

2. University of Cambridge (3) 

3. Imperial College London (7) 

4. UCL (8) 

5. University of Edinburgh (16) 

6. University of Manchester (27)

7. King’s College London (35) 

8. The London School of Economics (49) 

9. University of Warwick (61) 

10. University of Bristol (62) 

11. University of Glasgow (73) 

12. University of Southampton (77)

13. Durham University (82)

14. University of Birmingham (90) 

15. University of St Andrews (91) 

16. University of Leeds (92) 

17. University of Sheffield (95) 

18. University of Nottingham (103) 

19. Queen Mary University (117) 

20. Lancaster University (132)

Top 20 universities in the world

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

2. University of Oxford

3. Stanford University and University of Cambridge (joint)

5. Harvard University

6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

7. Imperial College London

8. ETH Zurich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and UCL (joint)

10. University of Chicago

11. National University of Singapore (NUS)

12. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)

13. University of Pennsylvania, US

14. Lausanne, Switzerland

15. Yale University, US and the University of Edinburgh (joint)

17. Tsinghua University, China

18. Peking University, China

19. Columbia University, US

20. Princeton University, US

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