Student News

UK universities top the world rankings

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings have been released, and it's good news for us Brits.

THE world rankings

The UK is now home to the world's top two universities for the first time since Times Higher Education (THE) started publishing its tables 14 years ago.

The University of Oxford kept its number one spot in the table, followed in second place by the University of Cambridge, which is up two places from fourth.

Cambridge’s success sees it overtake the prestigious California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which has fallen from second place to a joint third with Stanford.

THE said that margins were extremely tight at the top of the table, and that all of the top institutions had excelled when measured for their standards of teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and income. In other words, everyone's a winner!

So how did the rest of the UK do?

We know which universities did well in the world rankings, but what are the top ten UK universities according to this survey, and where did they place overall? Have a look at the table below to see whether your uni made it!

UniversityUK rankingWorld ranking
University of Oxford11
University of Cambridge22
Imperial College London38
University College London416
London School of Economics and Political Science525
University of Edinburgh627
King's College London736
University of Manchester854
University of Bristol976
University of Glasgow1080

Two other UK universities made it into the world's top 100: the University of Warwick (91st) and Durham University (97th). Well played everyone!

How did these unis rank in the TEF?

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), introduced earlier this year, assesses universities against criteria such as dropout rates, graduate employment, and student satisfaction. It is meant to help students make more informed choices about where to study their degree, but also enables the universities who opt in to increase tuition fees if they make the grade.

The TEF awards gold, silver, or bronze to universities depending on how well they score across a range of categories. This makes it a bit controversial, since there are no actual assessments of teaching standards or lectures. Our advice is to have a read of the information, but don’t use it as your only source when choosing a university!

TEF rankings THE

That said, it is interesting to see how the high-flyers from the THE rankings scored in the TEF (sorry, acronym overload). Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College all received gold as expected, but UCL had to settle for silver, and LSE only received bronze.

King’s College, Manchester, and Bristol were all awarded silver, while the two remaining universities (Edinburgh and Glasgow) have opted out of the TEF.

A number of universities with much higher scores from the TEF, such as the gold-rated Bath, Aston, Buckingham, and De Montfort, were all notably absent from the top end of the THE world rankings.

If anything, the huge differences between the two rankings just emphasises the fact that both should be taken with a pinch of salt!

What do these results mean?

Researchers from THE suggest that this year’s findings show "a widening gulf between the UK's super elite institutions and other universities", with just over half of the UK's top 200 institutions dropping down the rankings.

Phil Baty, rankings director, pointed out that the UK higher education system is currently facing significant political pressure over rising tuition fees (and value for money), the impact of Brexit on research funding and academic talent, and the level of vice-chancellors’ pay.

He continued:

But one thing this new data makes absolutely clear is that the UK has many of the very best universities in the world and it has one of the world's strongest higher education systems.

They are a huge national asset, and one that the country can ill-afford to undermine at a time when its place in the global order is under intense scrutiny.

THE and the TEF aren't the only rankings out there! Find out how your uni ranked in the UK rankings released earlier this year.

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