Higher education groups have called for more funding after British universities fared worse than usual in a new list of the world’s best institutions.

Cambridge and Oxford placed third and fourth respectively in the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings, which measure the power of university brands and are based on the opinions of senior academics.

But Leeds University dropped out of the top 100, following London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which were booted out last year. The UK now has just nine establishments in the list, compared to 43 from the US.

The magazine's rankings editor, Phil Baty, said there was “cause for alarm”. “It now seems that a gap is opening up between the very best and the rest, with even household name institutions like Sheffield and Leeds losing their lustre and falling down the rankings,” he said, adding that “concentrating increasingly scarce resources on a select few” could spell trouble ahead.

There was good news for some universities. Manchester entered the top 50 for the first time, University College London rose one place to 20th, and the London School of Economics increased four places from 29th to 25th. Edinburgh University - the only Scottish institution in the top 100 - rose three places to 46th.

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, warned that while Britain was still punching above its weight, more investment was needed.

“The UK invests just 0.56% of GDP of public expenditure in higher education: one of the lowest levels in the OECD,” she said. “We are concerned that our global competitors in the US, East Asia and Europe are pumping billions into higher education - and as these results show money really matters.”

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, echoed her concerns, saying: “Our reputation as a world-class provider of higher education is not a foregone conclusion.”

Harvard topped the table, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Some of Asia’s most renowned institutions leapt up the table, including the National Taiwan University, which moved from the 81-90 group in 2011 to within the top 60.