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US dominates global university reputation rankings

American universities have “confirmed their supremacy” while UK institutions show “worrying signs of reputational decline”, according to new global rankings published by Times Higher Education.

Harvard University followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology top the THE’s World Reputation Rankings for a second year, with Stanford University rising to third place to push Cambridge and Oxford down to fourth and fifth.

The rankings are based on a global invitation-only poll of over 10,000 senior academics across the world, conducted by Ipsos MediaCT for the THE’s rankings data supplier, Thomson Reuters.

Overall, the US dominates the rankings with eight universities in the top ten and 46 in the top 100.

The UK has the second highest number of institutions in the top 100, rising to ten from nine last year, but falling from 12 in 2011. Eight of the UK’s representatives hail from the South East’s “golden triangle”, including two new entrants – London Business School and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Meanwhile, the University of Bristol has dropped out of the top 100 and the University of Manchester fallen out of the top 50.

In representative terms, the US and the UK are followed by Germany, with six institutions in the top 100, followed by Japan and Australia with five each.

Some key Asian institutions have also made strong moves up in the rankings, including Seoul National University, rising from 41st to 26th place, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, up from the 61-70 band to 51-60.

Commenting on the rankings, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the UK’s Russell Group of large research-intensive universities, said: "Our leading universities continue to be held in high regard around the world with the UK coming second only to the United States overall. The UK was recently ranked as the best in the world for the quality of its research.

"However, UK public spending on higher education and research is comparable with that of Slovakia and Chile, far less than competitors like the US, China and most Western European countries. And while we currently punch above our weight, only with increased, long-term investment in research, will the UK's leading universities and high-tech industries continue to compete on the world stage.”

Dr Jo Beall, British Council Director of Education and Society, said: "These reputational rankings, as well as signalling a shift towards leading institutions becoming strong global brands in their own right, are also a reflection of a country's policies for and investment in higher education and research.  As international competition for the most ambitious students and sought-after researchers grows, the most successful academic communities will be those that have the strongest international make-up; that are able to welcome and embrace talent regardless of where it originates. It becomes a virtuous circle.

"National winners and losers in institutional terms depend hugely on the environment to attract the appropriate academics, so while it is pleasing that the UK still hosts the second highest number of universities in the global top one hundred, it is vital that all of our institutions are able to enjoy the full support of government in being able to attract and nurture the best talent from around the world. This will enhance not just the reputation of our institutions, but the UK as a whole."