Ten UK universities are in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World Rankings for 2012-13, compared with 12 last year and 14 in 2010-11. Excluding Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, Durham and University College London, several top universities slipped down.
The table’s authors warned that many UK universities faced “a collapse in their global position within a generation”. Of the leading research-intensive UK institutions, Bristol fell eight places to 74th and Sheffield is down nine places to joint 110th.
The Leeds University fell nine places to joint 142nd, the University of Birmingham is down 10 places to joint 158th and Newcastle is down 34 places to joint 180th.
In Scotland, the University of Glasgow fell 37 places to 139th and the University of Aberdeen is down 25 places to joint 176th. The University of St Andrews (falling from 85th to 108th) and the University of Sussex (down from 99th to 110th) have both lost their top 100 places.
And the University of Dundee has fallen out of the top 200 into the 201-225 band on the “best of the rest” list.
However, a few UK institutions have improved their ranking – the London School of Economics has risen from 47th to 39th place, the University of Edinburgh has climbed from 36th to 32nd and the University of York has leapt from joint 121st to 103rd.
Durham University also bucked the trend, climbing 3 places from 83rd to 80th. In total, the UK has seven universities in total in the top 50, and 31 in the top 200, down one from 32 last year. The United States dominate the rankings, with seven of the top 10 places and 76 of the top 200.
Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education rankings, said: “Outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England’s world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity.
“Huge investment in top research universities across Asia is starting to pay off. And while the Sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm – falling public investment in teaching and research, hostile visa conditions discouraging the world’s top academics and students from coming here, and serious uncertainty about where our next generation of scholars will come from, with a policy vacuum surrounding postgraduate study.
“Given the seriousness of the funding cuts facing England and the strength of the competition, the tripled student tuition fees introduced this year look increasingly like a sticking plaster for an amputation.”
Mr Baty said Scotland’s position was no better.
“Some Scottish institutions have fallen far,” he said.
“While there are current policies protecting investment in universities there, they are unlikely to be enough to meet the challenge posed by massive spending in the East. These disappointing results may resurrect the debate about charging tuition fees in Scotland.”
Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of leading universities, said they “continue to punch above their weight, with 10 in the top 100”. But she added: “If we are serious about staying on top, the government must concentrate investment where it will have the most impact – in our world-class research-intensive universities.
“Our global competitors are pumping billions into research-intensive higher education and leading Asian universities – especially in South Korea, Singapore and China – are rising fast.
“The UK cannot afford to be outmanoeuvred by other countries that clearly recognise that investment in their leading universities is the key to growth.”
Universities minister David Willetts said the UK’s system had maintained its “world-class status”, but warned: “We cannot be complacent”. (BBC News)