Oxbridge slides down the latest university world rankings as US institutions tighten their grip on the top spots

Oxford and Cambridge are now at fourth and fifth respectively - and only 10 British universities make the list at all

Once regarded as bastions of academic excellence and a magnet for the world’s best talent, the reputation of Britain’s top universities is in decline. Oxford and Cambridge have fallen further behind their American rivals, according to this year’s Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings.

Harvard University tops the list, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in second place. Stanford University has taken third spot – pushing Oxford and Cambridge down to fourth and fifth respectively - in the annual list of the world’s top 100 universities.

The league table of the world’s most prestigious universities is chosen by 10,536 senior academics from 133 countries – each nominating the top institutions in their particular field of excellence.

Just 10 British universities have made this year’s list, a 20 per cent drop since 2011, when there were a dozen in the top 100. The US dominates, accounting for almost half the universities in the ranking.

The news is a “big reminder that our competitors are not standing still, they are speeding up” warned Liam Byrne, Shadow Minister for Universities, Skills and Science. “It’s bad news we’re slipping in the wrong direction and it’s bad news that across the country, great universities are heading down, not up.”

And fears are growing of a brain drain of the brightest students from other parts of Britain to London and the south east – which accounts for the majority of British universities in the top 100. The only exceptions are Cambridge, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, said: "The UK has lost three big-name universities from the list of the world's 100 most prestigious institutions since the rankings were first published in 2011. In 2012, the University of Sheffield exited the rankings, in 2013 the University of Leeds followed suit, and this year the University of Bristol misses out.”

He added: "Given how important global reputation is in attracting top international talent, collaborations and investment, this is cause for concern. The UK has some of the world's biggest university brands: we must protect them."

A reputation for academic excellence not only attracts the best students, staff and researchers, but also investment by philanthropists and industry alike, according to Mr Baty.

Britain has “one of the strongest university systems in the world,” according to Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, but “if we want to maintain this leading position, we must start matching our competitors' increased investment in higher education,” she warned.

The concern was echoed by Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union: “Other countries recognise the value of their universities and if we do not match their investment we will struggle to maintain our position.”

In a statement yesterday, a spokesperson for Cambridge University said the ranking “reflects the fact” that it “is among a small group of the most respected and influential higher education institutions in the world.”

David Alder, the director of marketing at the University of Bristol, said: "League tables provide a partial view. Bristol is and remains one of the most popular universities, as is illustrated by both its very high number of applicants per place as well as by the fact that it is one of the few universities noted for its ability to have increased its intake of high achieving students."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, said: “The UK has a global reputation for excellence in higher education. We have strong institutions, a world-class research base and dedicated staff. To stay ahead in the global race, we are protecting the research budget, making UK research more accessible and delivering a better student experience."

Oxford University did not respond to a request for comment.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary TA - West London - Autumn

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

AER Teachers: Graduate Secondary TA - West London

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent