Meanwhile, universities in Asia are on the rise in the table, taking a larger share nearer the top of the rankings at the expense of European institutions.
The 2018 edition of the World University Rankings was released this week, which saw the UK’s University of Oxford retain the top spot for the second year.
Stanford University joins the California Institute of Technology in third place – Caltech held the top spot in the league table for five consecutive years before the University of Oxford.
US universities however, have not lost their prominence among the top-ranked institutions, with a total of seven featuring in the top 10 – the same amount as last year.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology held its position in fifth place.
The top five were followed by Harvard University (6th), Princeton University (7th) and Imperial College London (8th), who all also maintained last year’s positions.
The University of Chicago came in at ninth, and ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the University of Pennsylvania jointly ranked at 10th.
Europe however, is facing increased competition from Asian institutions as they begin to overtake European institutions in the league table.
The National University of Singapore is Asia’s highest ranked institution at 22, up two places from last year.
The top two universities in China have also advanced in the rankings, with Peking University rising to joint 27th from 29th last year, and Tsinghua University ranking at 30th from 35th.
“Universities must be at the heart of the new industrial strategy”
While the number of institutions in Asia in the top 30 has increased from two to three this year, Europe now has seven institutions in the top 30, down from 10 last year.
“There are signs that Asia is starting to threaten the position of some of Europe’s leading institutions,” said Phil Baty, editorial director, global rankings at THE, adding that Brexit also poses a risk to UK universities’ success.
“Europe will need to work hard to ensure it can sustain its performance in future years,” he said.
Research funding and international student intake may pose threats to the position of UK universities after Brexit, THE observed, but their positions remain strong this year.
The UK higher education system is facing a number of factors, including political pressure, the flow of researching funding, and attractiveness to international students, said Baty.
“But one thing this new data makes absolutely clear is that the UK has many of the very best universities in the world and it has one of the world’s strongest higher education systems,” he said.
Tim Bradshaw, acting director of the Russell Group, said that the leading universities “will have a crucial role to play in enabling the UK to thrive and prosper in a post-Brexit world”.
“They are one of the most important drivers of inward investment and local, regional and national growth through the flow of talent and ideas,” he said.
“To maximise their impact and contribution in the years ahead, they must be at the heart of the new industrial strategy and supported by a funding system that is sustainable over the long-term.”
The rankings table consists of the world’s top 1,000 universities spanning 77 countries.
Ranking the highest for Africa was the University of Cape Town at 171, down from 148 last year.
And Australia’s top-ranked institution, the University of Melbourne placed 32nd – up from 33rd.
World University Rankings 2018 – Top 10
1. University of Oxford
2. University of Cambridge
3= California Institute of Technology
3= Stanford University
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6. Harvard University
7. Princeton University
8. Imperial College London
9. University of Chicago
10= ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
10= University of Pennsylvania