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US, UK loosen grip on QS top 100 universities

MIT has continued its winning streak in the QS World University Rankings, holding onto the top spot for a sixth year running as the US and UK dominate the rankings once again. However, a number of institutions in both countries have slipped amid funding constraints as contenders from across the globe are gaining ground.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University - QS World University Rankings 2018Hong Kong's Polytechnic University soared 16 places in the QS World University Rankings 2018 to enter the top 100 for the first time. Photo: Flickr/Ken Ohyama.

"The competitiveness of UK universities has been affected by austerity"

Stanford and Harvard retained their positions in second and third place, while Caltech rose one place to fourth to displace the University of Cambridge.

“A continued strain on university resources appears to be having a deleterious impact”

In fifth place, Cambridge was one of 51 UK universities – two thirds of the country’s 76 institutions ranked in the overall ranking – that lost ground.

The ranking should give UK policymakers “pause for thought”, commented Nick Hillman, director of the UK’s Higher Education Policy Institute, adding that the incoming government “will need to work hard if UK universities are to regain their previous position”.

“The competitiveness of UK universities has been affected by austerity. In particular, tuition fees have been frozen for five years and research funding has not grown as fast as in some other countries,” he argued.

QS head of research Ben Sowter echoed that a “continued strain on university resources… appears to be having a deleterious impact on not just research, but also the capacity to deliver world-class teaching” in the UK.

Similarly in the US, despite a strong performance from big name universities, more than half the country’s ranked institutions also slipped this year – 18 by more than 50 places.

Although US and UK universities accounted for almost half (47) of the top 100 ranked universities, countries that are beginning to invest heavily in higher education have made significant progress in the World University Rankings.

Singapore’s Nanyang Technical University, Asia’s top-ranked university, rose two places to 11th place, and there were six Chinese universities in this year’s top 100 – two more than in the 2017 ranking.

Hong Kong had five universities in the top 100 for the first time, as Polytechnic University soared 16 places to 95th. The city’s highest ranked representative, the University of Hong Kong, meanwhile edged up one place to 26th.

The top 100 for the first time features a university in Russia, where the government has increased funding to a handful of selected higher education institutions with the hope of propelling five into the top 100.

QS World University Rankings top 10 universities 2018:

See the full ranking here.

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