Now in its 15th year, the 2019 rankings revealed that the US continues to dominate the table with 172 institutions, up from 157 in 2018.
The largest rise in the top 20 positions went to Yale University, which climbed four places to eighth, its highest rank since 2011.
“If the UK is to maintain its leading position, we must…ensure that the UK projects a more open and welcoming message”
But while the nation is led by Stanford University in third place overall, the majority of US universities – 130 of them – either declined or remain static in this year’s rankings.
Meanwhile, the UK retained its status as second most-represented in the top 200, although it was surpassed as the second most-represented nation in the listing overall, with Japan claiming 103 positions to the UK’s 98.
The majority of UK ranked institutions (21 of 29) were also shown to have either remained static or declined, with two – the University of Dundee in Scotland and Royal Holloway in London –slipping from the top 200 entirely.
Commenting on the rankings, chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said that while it is clear that the UK continues to have one of the strongest university sectors in the world, other countries are seeing the benefits of higher education and are investing heavily in developing their universities.
“If the UK is to maintain its leading position, we must match this investment, and ensure that the UK projects a more open and welcoming message for talented international staff and students.
“This is more important than ever as Brexit negotiations near their end,” he added.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s number of universities in the top 200 dropped from five to four, which director of Universities Scotland Alastair Sim said “reflects the ferocity of international competition from nations that are investing in higher education to drive economic growth”.
“A clear pattern is emerging between the level of resource available to higher education sectors by country and the trajectory of that country within global league tables. This year we’ve seen Japan overtake the UK as the second most-represented nation in the rankings for the first time.
“We need sustainable investment if we’re going to keep Scotland’s critical advantage as a place to study, research and do business.”
The table also showed a mixed picture for Canada, with 27 institutions represented, although 77% of the country’s universities ranked in both 2018 and 2019 declined or stagnated.
“We need sustainable investment if we’re going to keep Scotland’s critical advantage”
Meanwhile, Asia continues its ascent, with China’s Tsinghua University moving up eight places to number 22, surpassing Peking University to claim China’s highest position since 2011 as the country closes in on its goal of 500,000 students by 2020.
Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, said that he was “not surprised” by Tsinghua’s advance.
“It’s easily the number one university in the world for high citation research in mathematics and computing – a combined field in which China has now moved well ahead of the US and, further back, Europe. It is near the top of the world, and rising fast, in physical sciences and engineering,” he told THE.
According to the rankings, Europe remains a significant power player with Germany (with 47), Italy (43), Spain (38) and France (34) revealed to be the most-represented European countries in the table after the UK.
And the University of Baghdad became Iraq’s first entrant in the table’s 15-year history, while Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Nepal and Tanzania also joined the table for the first time this year.
THE World University Rankings 2019 top 10
1 University of Oxford, UK
2 University of Cambridge, UK
3 Stanford University, US
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
5 California Institute of Technology, US
6 Harvard University, US
7 Princeton University, US
8 Yale University, US
9 Imperial College London, UK
10 University of Chicago, US
For the full list of THE global rankings, see here