British universities have fallen in the latest international rankings as concern persists about the potential impact of Brexit on the country’s higher education sector.
Universities in the UK have seen a real-terms cut to government funding for research. Photo credit: PA
The UK’s top-ranked university, Cambridge, has fallen out of the top three for the first time since the QS World University Rankings began 12 years ago, and the vast majority of the country’s other leading institutions similarly drop down the table.
While the performance of many western European institutions – in France, Portugal, Germany and Italy – has declined, the most significant falls have been in the UK where universities have seen a real-terms cut to government funding for research.
Commenting on British universities falling in the latest international rankings, Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “This news is cause for great concern for our universities, and for Britain’s reputation as a global leader in education and research.
“Brexit appears to have dented international confidence in our universities, along with the uncertain future of research funding and immigration rules.
“The Tories are offering nothing but meaningless soundbites when we need a real plan to ensure that our universities can access both the funding and the talent they need to continue as world leaders.”
The surveys that informed the rankings were carried out before the UK voted in June to leave the EU. QS, a higher education thinktank, said the referendum had added to the uncertainty undermining the UK sector but did not fully explain the downward trend.
Of the 48 UK institutions in the top 400, 38 have dropped down the rankings this year. Cambridge slips to fourth place, and Imperial College London drops from eighth to ninth. King’s College London (KCL) falls from 19 to 21, the London School of Economics (LSE) from 35 to 37, the University of Bristol from 37 to 41 and Warwick from 48 to 51.
Four UK universities remain in the top 10 in the world: Cambridge, Oxford (unchanged at 6), University College London (still at 7) and Imperial. On the up are the University of Edinburgh, climbing from 21 to 19, and Manchester University, now ranked in the top 30.