Oxford has fallen to sixth place in this year’s QS University World Rankings, after being overtaken by Imperial College London.
The university also finds itself behind UCL and Cambridge, the latter losing its second place position to Harvard. The ‘top ten’ list continues to be dominated by American institutions, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reaching the top spot.
However, the 2013/14 rankings also show another two British universities included in the top 20, with the addition of Edinburgh and KCL.
Oxford retained its dominance in certain faculties, being named the best institution in the world for studying the Arts and Humanities whilst reaching the top three for Medicine and the Social Sciences.
It also achieved highly in terms of graduate job prospects. In a QS survey of 27,000 employers, Oxbridge graduates were seen as the world’s most employable, with those from the LSE reaching fourth place. In what is likely to prove a relief to recent graduates, QS head of research Ben Sowter claims:
“The prestige of a UK degree is recognized by employers around the world, and the brand-name value of Oxbridge has so far survived any negative publicity following the tuition fee hikes and student protests.”
Despite this, other commentators warned that Oxford and other British universities could see themselves fall further down league tables as a result of a lack of funding.
According to QS Global Academic Advisory Board member John O’Leary, “The UK invests below the OECD average in higher education, so it is unrealistic to expect its universities to continue to punch above their weight indefinitely”
This warning is underlined by UK institutions’ underwhelming performance in academic research when compared to the USA. In terms of number of research citations, Cambridge is the only British university to reach the top 30. It is joined only by Oxford and Imperial in the top 50, as opposed to 31 American colleges.
The QS rankings take into account diverse factors, including the number of research citations per faculty, teaching quality, and appeal to international students. It remains to be seen whether its results are matched by other surveys to be published later this year such as the Times Higher Education list.