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UCL ranked in world's top 20 "super-elite" universities

5 September 2017

UCL has confirmed its position among the top 20 “super-elite” universities in the world, according to the Times Higher Education’s (THE) annual rankings published today.

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UCL is ranked 16th in the world and fourth in the UK behind Oxford, which came first, Cambridge, which jumped two places to second, and Imperial College, London, which was eighth. LSE was 25th and King’s College, London, 36th.

The THE says the findings suggest a widening gulf between the “super-elite” and other universities as well as revealing London to be the top university city in the world with more universities in the top 500 than any other similar-sized conurbation.

While Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, LSE and King’s – what the THE dubs the “golden triangle” in the south east of England – have remained steady in the rankings this year (UCL is down just one place with Oxford, LSE and King’s unchanged), several lower-ranked universities declined.

The University of Warwick went down nine places to 91st and the University of St Andrews fell 33 places to joint 143rd. According to the THE, 16 of the UK’s 31 universities in the top 200 dropped places.

The results re-affirm UCL’s status as a world-leading university following its seventh place in the QS world rankings (third in the UK) and its 16th placing in the ShanghaiRanking world tables (also third in the UK).

It is the first time in the 13-year history of the THE tables that Oxford and Cambridge have taken the two top places. Cambridge’s rise comes at the expense of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which was number one between 2012 and 2016 and is now joint third with Stanford University.

The THE says the margins are extremely tight at the top with all the top-ranked institutions excelling across their 13 performance metrics. It suggests the rise of Oxford and Cambridge could be partly attributed to a significant increase in their income, up 24% and 11% respectively.

However, it warns Brexit may pose a risk to the global performance of the UK’s top universities. Almost a quarter of research funding from competitive grants at Cambridge and a fifth at Oxford comes from the EU. At UCL, it is 10%.

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur said: “I am delighted to see the continued success of UCL and of London as the top university city in the world with more universities in the THE’s top 500 global rankings than any other city or similar-sized conurbation. It is a tribute to the hard work of all our staff and to our international outlook which means we attract highly-talented staff and students from the EU and globally.”

For the first time, there are two Chinese universities in the top 30 with UCL’s partner institution Peking University 29th and Tsinghua University 30th. The US still dominates the top 200 with 61 universities followed by the UK (31), Germany (20), the Netherlands (13) and Australia (8).

Phil Baty, editorial director of the THE rankings, said: “One thing this new data makes absolutely clear is that the UK has many of the very best universities in the world and it has one of the world’s strongest higher education systems.

“The data shows UK universities are consistently producing ground-breaking new research which is driving innovation, they are attracting international student and academic talent and are providing a world-class teaching environment. They 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.

“The rankings serve to highlight what is at stake if we cannot agree a sustainable way to properly fund our universities, we fail to welcome global students, and if the research funding and academic talent that current comes to us from the EU is cut off.”

He said the US dominance of the list had waned in face of the challenge from Asia, describing it as a real blow to the US higher education sector that it did not hold either of the top two spots in the rankings.

“Funding concerns for America’s public universities, uncertainty around future levels of research income and anti-immigration policies means that the US’s position may decline further in future years,” said Baty. “In contrast, Canada’s universities may benefit if the country continues to become more outward in its worldview and increases funding for basic research. But whatever policies are implemented in North American countries there is no doubt that east Asian universities will continue to soar.”

In comments to The Evening Standard, UCL’s president & provost Michael Arthur added: ““With Brexit negotiations now fully underway, these rankings are timely in reminding us of the important role our international staff and students play in our success. At UCL more than 21% of our academics are from the EU and a further 14% are from other non-EU nations. We draw our students from more than 150 countries. And such is the lure of the intellectual and cultural powerhouse that is London that at UCL we have seen an increase in the number of EU students due to join us on undergraduate courses this autumn despite Brexit.

“People are uncertain and concerned by what will happen during and after Brexit. They are staying in the UK for the time being despite some evidence that some have already been approached to be poached by our international rivals. These EU staff and students who contribute massively to the UK economy need more reassurance and greater clarity from the government that freedom of movement to and from the EU for people of their calibre will continue after Brexit without bureaucratic visa restrictions. Equally, it makes no sense to include foreign students in the net migration figures given official evidence last month that the vast majority leave once their visas expire.

“The government also needs to ensure science and research are included in the Brexit negotiations at an early stage and that the benefits of collaboration with EU and other international partners continues. It is welcome news if reports yesterday (Monday) prove correct that the government is prepared to continue to fund the EU’s Horizon 2020 research scheme and any successor – and will shortly make this clear in a position paper.

“Some 14% of UCL’s research income comes from the EU including that from Horizon 2020. Of potentially more concern is the threat Brexit poses to money from the European Research Council (ERC) which brings in the very best academics from all over the world and accounts for about 45% of UCL’s funding from the EU. If these sources of income were to be lost, it would threaten London as a world leader in higher education and as a research engine that helps drive the economy.

“There are leading academics at UCL and in the UK today who joined as young EU researchers or post-docs. They are now responsible for work that pushes back the boundaries of knowledge, benefits us all and inspires the next generation. It would be a tragedy if we woke up in 10 or 20 years’ time to discover those young researchers had turned their back on the UK because of a Brexit deal that failed to take account of our international outlook.”

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Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 - full top 200

Rank 2018 Previous year Institution Country
1 1 University of Oxford United Kingdom
2 4 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
=3 2 California Institute of Technology United States
=3 3 Stanford University United States
5 5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
6 6 Harvard University United States
7 7 Princeton University United States
8 8 Imperial College London United Kingdom
9 =10 University of Chicago United States
=10 9 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland
=10 13 University of Pennsylvania United States
12 12 Yale University United States
13 17 Johns Hopkins University United States
14 16 Columbia University United States
15 14 University of California, Los Angeles United States
16 15 University College London United Kingdom
17 18 Duke University United States
18 =10 University of California, Berkeley United States
19 19 Cornell University United States
20 20 Northwestern University United States
21 21 University of Michigan United States
=22 24 National University of Singapore Singapore
=22 22 University of Toronto Canada
24 23 Carnegie Mellon University United States
=25 =25 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom
=25 =25 University of Washington United States
=27 27 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
=27 32 New York University United States
=27 29 Peking University China
30 35 Tsinghua University China
31 41 University of California, San Diego United States
32 =33 University of Melbourne Australia
33 =33 Georgia Institute of Technology United States
=34 =36 University of British Columbia Canada
=34 =30 LMU Munich Germany
36 =36 King’s College London United Kingdom
37 =36 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
=38 =30 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland
=38 28 Karolinska Institute Sweden
40 =43 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
41 46 Technical University of Munich Germany
42 42 McGill University Canada
43 45 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
44 49 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
45 =43 Heidelberg University Germany
46 39 University of Tokyo Japan
47 40 KU Leuven Belgium
48 47 Australian National University Australia
49 50 University of Texas at Austin United States
=50 =51 Brown University United States
=50 =57 Washington University in St Louis United States
52 54 Nanyang Technological University Singapore
53 48 University of California, Santa Barbara United States
=54 =51 University of California, Davis United States
=54 55 University of Manchester United Kingdom
=56 53 University of Minnesota United States
=56 56 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
58 76 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
59 63 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
60 70 Purdue University United States
61 =60 University of Sydney Australia
62 =57 Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
63 59 Delft University of Technology Netherlands
64 65 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands
65 =60 University of Queensland Australia
66 =60 University of Southern California United States
67 77 Leiden University Netherlands
68 86 Utrecht University Netherlands
69 67 University of Maryland, College Park United States
=70 64 Boston University United States
=70 =72 Ohio State University United States
=72 69 Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands
=72 NR Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
=74 =91 Kyoto University Japan
=74 =72 Seoul National University South Korea
76 71 University of Bristol United Kingdom
77 68 Pennsylvania State University United States
78 =113 McMaster University Canada
79 =78 RWTH Aachen University Germany
=80 88 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
=80 74 Monash University Australia
82 95 University of Freiburg Germany
=83 =80 University of Groningen Netherlands
=83 101 Michigan State University United States
85 =78 University of New South Wales Australia
=86 87 Rice University United States
=86 93 Uppsala University Sweden
88 75 Free University of Berlin Germany
89 =82 Dartmouth College United States
90 =91 University of Helsinki Finland
91 =82 University of Warwick United Kingdom
92 =82 Technical University of Berlin Germany
93 =96 Lund University Sweden
94 =89 University of Tübingen Germany
=95 =98 University of Basel Switzerland
=95 =89 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) South Korea
97 =96 Durham University United Kingdom
98 =82 Emory University United States
99 =98 University of California, Irvine United States
=100 =113 University of Bonn Germany
=100 =116 University of Colorado Boulder United States
=100 =80 University of Pittsburgh United States
103 94 Maastricht University Netherlands
104 109 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
=105 =110 University of Bern Switzerland
=105 108 Vanderbilt University United States
107 118 Ghent University Belgium
108 103 University of Montreal Canada
=109 =98 Aarhus University Denmark
=109 120 University of Copenhagen Denmark
=111 =137 Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) South Korea
=111 125 University of Western Australia Australia
=113 112 University of Göttingen Germany
=113 =121 University of Virginia United States
115 =116 École Polytechnique France
116 155 Fudan University China
=117 150 Indiana University United States
=117 =131 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
=119 107 University of Alberta Canada
=119 119 City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
121 =113 Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
122 =121 Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
=123 =104 Georgetown University United States
=123 =121 Pierre and Marie Curie University France
125 102 University of Mannheim Germany
=126 131 Arizona State University United States
=126 NR Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin Germany
=126 =121 University of Southampton United Kingdom
129 128 Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
=130 =126 University of Exeter United Kingdom
=130 =137 University of Geneva Switzerland
132 =153 University of Science and Technology of China China
133 =144 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Germany
=134 142 University of Adelaide Australia
=134 =144 Stockholm University Sweden
136 106 University of Zurich Switzerland
=137 =104 Pohang University of Science and Technology South Korea
=137 129 University of York United Kingdom
139 133 University of Leeds United Kingdom
140 175 Pompeu Fabra University Spain
=141 130 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
=141 177 Eindhoven University of Technology Netherlands
=143 134 University of Florida United States
=143 =110 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
145 =170 University of Cologne Germany
146 132 University of Oslo Norway
=147 163 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
=147 147 University of Nottingham United Kingdom
=147 149 University of Sussex United Kingdom
=150 =137 Lancaster University United Kingdom
=150 143 University of Notre Dame United States
152 =151 University of Lausanne Switzerland
=153 176 Technical University of Denmark Denmark
=153 =151 University of Rochester United States
=155 =190 Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Italy
=155 164 TU Dresden Germany
=155 =135 Ulm University Germany
158 =126 Case Western Reserve University United States
=159 172 University of Leicester United Kingdom
=159 169 Texas A&M University United States
161 =156 University of Arizona United States
=162 146 University of California, Santa Cruz United States
=162 =182 Cardiff University United Kingdom
=162 160 University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Germany
=165 =161 University of Vienna Austria
=165 =156 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
=165 =186 University of Würzburg Germany
168 NR University of Alabama at Birmingham United States
=169 201-250 Nanjing University China
=169 =135 Tufts University United States
171 148 University of Cape Town South Africa
172 141 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey United States
=173 159 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden
=173 =161 University of Münster Germany
=175 201-250 Université Libre de Bruxelles Belgium
=175 =190 Newcastle University United Kingdom
=177 158 University of Liverpool United Kingdom
=177 201-250 Zhejiang University China
=179 178 University of Luxembourg Luxembourg
=179 =153 University of Twente Netherlands
181 179 Paris-Sud University France
=182 201-250 École Normale Supérieure de Lyon France
=182 =192 Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong
184 =137 Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa Italy
185 =188 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
186 =182 University of Miami United States
187 =180 University of Dundee United Kingdom
=188 =165 University of East Anglia United Kingdom
=188 201-250 Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
190 201-250 Aalto University Finland
191 =165 University of Massachusetts United States
192 =165 University of Auckland New Zealand
193 =182 Northeastern University United States
194 =188 Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation
195 =198 Tilburg University Netherlands
196 351-400 Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4 France
197 =173 Royal Holloway, University of London United Kingdom
=198 =165 University of California, Riverside United States
=198 =170 University of Gothenburg Sweden
=198 =195 National Taiwan University Taiwan