Oxford tops table of world universities amid warnings that Brexit could hamper higher education in UK

How the universities stack up
How the universities stack up
  • Three Yorkshire universities in top 150
  • Sheffield highest ranked
  • 91 British Universities in top 1,000
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OXFORD HAS been ranked the best university in the world, the first time an institution from the UK has taken the accolade.

It topped the Times Higher Education (THE) world university rankings for the first time, knocking the California Institute of Technology, the five-times best, into second place.

Cambridge and Imperial College London join Oxford in the top 10 for 2016/17, named fourth and eighth respectively, vying for positions in the rankings with the likes of Stanford, Harvard and Princeton universities and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, all in the US.

Sheffield University was the top ranked institution in Yorkshire at 109th.

The region’s other two Russell Group institutions, York and Leeds were also ranked among the top 150 higher education providers in the world.

York moved up two places on last year to 129th while Leeds retained its place at 133.

Across Yorkshire eight institutions featured in the top 1,000.

Hull was in the top 600 and Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds Beckett were ranked between 600 and 800 according to a table published tonight by the THE. Sheffield Hallam also featured in the top 1,000

The new figures come amid warnings that the vote to leave the European Union could pose a big threat to higher education in the UK, destabilising it and hindering academics from working with colleagues on the continent.

And there are fears the looming departure from the EU could discourage overseas students from applying to British universities, with some research suggesting more than 40 per cent are looking elsewhere.

Phil Baty, editor of the THE world university rankings, said: “The UK must ensure that it limits the damage to academics, students, universities and science during its Brexit negotiations to ensure that the UK remains one of the world leaders in higher education.” The global rankings saw 91 UK universities placed in the top 980 universities, which represents five per cent of the world’s higher education institutions, judged on areas such as teaching, research and industry income.

With 88 universities in the top 800, up from 78 last year, the UK is second only to the US for the number institutions in the world’s best 800.

Despite this success, UK universities lagged behind on the industry income indicator, which assesses the ability to help industry with innovations, inventions and consultancy, the extent to which businesses are willing to pay for research and a university’s ability to attract funding - with the nation’s best-placed appearing at just 127 in the rankings.

The UK is the world’s second most popular destination for overseas students, according to the British Council, with 493,570 enrolled in universities in 2013/14, up around 80,000 on the 415,585 five years before.

But Mr Baty said Asia is continuing to grow as a higher education “superpower”, with China’s leading universities, Peking and Tsinghua, in the top 40 and the National University of Singapore at 24. He said: “It is fantastic news that the University of Oxford has topped the world university rankings for the first time. It is a great result for the UK higher education sector and cements its position as one of the greatest university nations in the world.” Mr Baty added that the Brexit vote was a “big threat” to the higher education sector.

He said: “As well as some top academics reporting they have been frozen out of collaborative research projects with EU colleagues, many are admitting that they might look to relocate to a university outside the country.”