It’s the first time a UK university has come top of THE’s league table, with Oxford replacing the California Institute of Technology at number one.
UK universities have performed strongly throughout the newly announced rankings, with 91 UK institutions featuring in the top 980, compared with 78 last year.
The UK is now second only to the US for the number of world-class universities, boasting 32 unis in the top 200. Cambridge (fourth) and Imperial (eighth) remain in the top 10 unis in the world.
Great result for the UK
“It is a great result for the UK higher education sector and cements its position as one of the greatest university nations in the world,” says Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
However, four UK unis did slip out of the top 100: Sheffield, St Andrews, Queen Mary and Exeter.
The broadly positive result for UK universities is at odds with the QS World University Rankings, announced at the start of September, which showed drops in ranking for most UK institutions.
Among other countries in the THE’s rankings, Germany and the Netherlands performed well. Germany now has 41 institutions in the rankings with 22 in the top 200 and 9 in the top 100. 13 research intensive universities in the Netherlands also all made the top 200 for the first time. However, half of Italy’s 39 institutions slipped down the table, as well as a third of France’s 25 unis.
Asia has strengthened its position as an up-and-coming higher education superpower with 289 universities from 24 countries now ranking. Of those, 19 feature in the top 200.
With almost half a million overseas students enrolling in UK unis in 2013-14, the UK remains the second-most popular university destination.
But a survey by Hobsons, an education-based consultancy suggests that Brexit uncertainty may have a negative impact, with more than two-fifths of prospective overseas students less likely to go to a UK uni following the referendum.
“The UK must ensure that it limits the damage to academics, students, universities and science during its Brexit negotiations, to ensure that the UK remains one of the world leaders in higher education,” says Baty.
For the first time THE’s world rankings were independently audited, with PricewaterhouseCoopers signing off on the methodology, data capture and ranking calculations used by THE for the table.
Find out how your uni did on Times Higher Education.