Oxford falls in global reputation rankings

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Oxford has fallen to fifth place in the Times Higher Education global ranking measuring worldwide reputation. Only ten UK universities remained in the top 100, in a table dominated by US institutions.

The table was headed up for the sixth year in a row by Harvard, with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford placing second and third. Cambridge, in fourth place, was the only other UK university to appear in the top 10. Universities in London follow Oxbridge in terms of UK institutions with Imperial College London, University College London (UCL) and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) placing at 15, 20 and 24 respectively. All three of these universities, as well as both Oxford and Cambridge, fell from their positions in last year’s table.

Phil Baty, the THE rankings editor, conceded that the UK had underperformed this year. Mr Baty cited both poor funding for higher education and new immigration measures as reasons for the UK’s poorer performance. The most remarkable shift in the global make-up of the top 100 came from Asia. Seventeen universities from the continent featured in the top 100, up from just 10 in last year’s ranking. According to Mr Baty this change reflects a growing shift between policymakers in developed and developing nations, with the latter perceiving universities as “engines of economic growth and competitiveness.”

The THE website states that the ranking “employs the largest invitation-only academic opinion survey to provide the definitive list of the top 100 most powerful global university brands”. The views of around 10,000 academics in 133 countries were considered in the making of the 2016 table. The website does however admit that the table is based “on nothing more than subjective judgment.” The results of the most recent survey contrast with those of the THE World University Rankings 2015-16 published in September last year, in which 16 UK universities featured in the world’s top 100. This table, according to THE, “is the only international university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions.” Criteria involved include faculty-student ratios, total resources, international mix on campus, and its links to business.

However, writing on the THE website, Mr Baty stressed the importance of the reputation tables published on Thursday. “Like it or not, our world-class universities are global brands.” He continued: “a strong reputation is key to attracting philanthropic funding, business investment and, perhaps most importantly of all, is essential for drawing in top global talent – staff and students alike.”

A University spokesperson responded by saying: “The various university ranking tables vary greatly in their criteria and in their placings from year to year. What is most important is that across these tables, Oxford is consistently ranked among the world’s leading institutions, both for the strength of its research and the quality of its teaching.”