Oxford has been declared the best UK university, and fifth best in the world, in the new QS world rankings, compiled annually by global higher education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds.
It has risen one place and exchanged position with Cambridge, which is now sixth.
All of the top four places were claimed by US institutions; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has retained its position as world-leader for a record-breaking seventh year in a row.
This is the first time in the QS rankings’ fifteen-year history that Oxford has been named the top UK university, and first time it has been placed in the world top five since 2015.
The result follows a slew of recently announced rankings, including the Guardian’s UK university league tables, the Times’ World Reputation Rankings, and a Higher Education Policy Institute report entitled ‘How Different is Oxbridge?’.
Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: “I am delighted that Oxford has risen in this year’s QS rankings.
“We owe this result to the talent and commitment of our academic staff and to our network of research collaborators across the continent and across the globe.
“We are particularly proud to have secured the top spot in Europe and very much hope that we will be able to maintain this position as the UK withdraws from the European Union.”
According to QS, “Oxford’s national ascendancy is primarily attributable to an improvement in its research performance.”
The university’s score for Citations per Faculty – QS’s measure of research impact – has risen from the 76.3/100 it achieved last year to 83.0/100 this year.
It was rated 100/100 for reputation both in the global academic community and among employers.
Jack Moran, a spokesman for QS, said: “This year’s results reiterate Oxford’s status as a truly world-class institution in all respects.
“It enjoys outstanding renown among both academics and employers. Its highly international status is testament to its global standing. No university in the country achieves a higher raw research impact, with its citations footprint higher than all others.”
“However, for students at the university, it is equally important that the world-renowned tutorial system remains facilitated by one of the world’s lowest faculty-student ratios: in this respect, Oxford is relatively – and happily – anomalous among UK institutions, the majority of whom are suffering from increasing class sizes.”
Reflecting on overall UK performance, Ben Sowter, Research Director at QS, said: “This year’s ranking cycle has demonstrated the enduring excellence of the United Kingdom higher education sector in the face of relentlessly competitive competition from abroad. Global research output is increasing apace, with the average institution producing 12.1% more publications and yielding 22.2% more citations than in the previous window. Keeping pace is one thing, but staying ahead of the curve is a testament to the innovation, insight, capacity for collaboration, and thought-leadership present at UK universities.”
Sowter continued: “However, the challenges for the UK’s sector remain, and are perhaps more evident than in previous years. The drops in faculty/student ratio, combined with low contact hours, will lead to increasing scrutiny about the extent to which students are receiving value for money. It’s no coincidence that the UK’s best institution is also the one with the lowest student-teacher ratio. Additionally, the result indicate that the sector is still struggling to convince international students of the country’s desirability in the first post-Brexit years.”