September 2017 (EL Gazette)
The UK has scooped the top two spots in the new THE World University Rankings for the first time in 13 years – but experts fear that Brexit could change the situation, writes Claudia Civinini.
The University of Oxford holds on to the pole position, while Cambridge has risen from fourth to second place, knocking off the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), now joint third with Stanford University.
However, since a sizeable share of research funding comes from the EU (about a quarter for Cambridge and a fifth for Oxford), and data shows that EU applications have declined 5 per cent since last year, Brexit poses a threat to the UK universities in the top league.
Universities 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’, said Phil Baty, editorial director of the THE global rankings.
Mr Baty said the lofty position of UK universities ‘served to highlight what is at stake if we cannot agree a sustainable way to properly fund our universities’
If we fail to welcome global students, he said, then ‘research funding and academic talent that currently comes to us from the European Union is cut off.’
The rankings also highlighted a widening gap between UK elite universities and other universities – about half of the UK’s top-200 representatives have slipped down the rankings.
This could also be due to increased competition from Asian institutions, the data shows.
Overall, Europe is showing a strong performance in the rankings, but Asian universities are rising fast.
Europe now has seven institutions in the top 30, down from 10 last year, while Asia has now three -National University of Singapore, the Chinese Peking University and Tsinghua University.
These two Chinese institutions now out-rank Germany’s top university, LMU Munich, which has slipped from 30th to 34th, while the Swedish Karolinska Institute and the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne fell off the top 30.
‘Europe will need to work hard to ensure it can sustain its performance in future years’, Mr Baty said.