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UK tops THE global rankings for the first time

All Souls College, Oxford. Photo: Flickr/ Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P..

The US maintains its leading presence in the table taking 148 spots of the 980

For the first time in its 12-year history, a non-US institution heads the table, however the US continues to dominate the top 10 spots.

After Cal Tech’s demotion to second place, the top positions mirror 2015’s results: Stanford University sits at third, followed by the University of Cambridge (4th), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5th), Harvard University (6th), Princeton University (7th), Imperial College London (8th) ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (9th).

The University of Chicago and University of California Berkeley share 10th position – UC Berkeley up from 13th last year.

“In order to maintain our global position, we need a new approach to immigration and visas for international students and staff”

A total of 980 universities from 79 countries are listed on the table, representing about 5% of the world’s higher education institutions.

The US maintains its leading presence in the table, taking 148 spots of the 980, while the UK has 91, with 32 in the top 200, two less than last year.

University stakeholders across the UK have celebrated the sector’s performance but have also expressed concerns for its sustainability under the government’s immigration policy and uncertainty around the country’s future outside of the European Union.

“It is a real achievement that the UK remains the second strongest university system in the world, despite spending significantly less on higher education than our main competitor countries,” Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK said.

“In order to maintain our global position, we need a new approach to immigration and visas for international students and staff,” she added. “We must also focus efforts on promoting the UK’s world-class higher education sector across the globe. This is more important than ever as the UK looks to enhance its place in the world post-Brexit.”

Dandridge however noted that such rankings “cannot tell the whole story about the strength of our sector and universities’ positions will vary from one international table to the next”.

Meanwhile, Michael Peak, senior advisor-education research at the British Council, said with a changing political backdrop “it is vital that student mobility and collaborative teaching and research programmes are supported to facilitate future international engagement”.

“Attracting the brightest academic talent; high quality international students; and international research funding and partnerships; have to remain priorities both for UK institutions and for the UK government,” he added.

“Asia’s rise in the rankings is real and growing”

Phil Baty, editor of THE WUR, noted that the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June “is a big threat to the country’s higher education sector”, adding that some of the country’s universities have slipped out of the top 100, even before the full effects of Brexit have been seen.

The presence of Asia in the rankings continues to grow, with four new entries from the region bringing its total to 19. China’s Peking University joins the top 30 in 29th place (up from 42nd last year), while Tsinghua joins the top 40 in 35th place (up from joint 47th).

Five of Hong Kong’s six representatives make the top 200 – more than any other Asian region – and the National University of Singapore, Asia’s top university, is at 24th, its highest ever rank.

“The UK will have to watch out for Asia’s continuing ascent. Although the notion of Asia as the ‘next higher education superpower’ has become something of a cliché in recent years, the continent’s rise in the rankings is real and growing,” noted Baty.

Among Australian institutions, the University of Melbourne continues to be the highest ranked, coming in at 33rd for the seventh straight year.

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