The top 20 universities in the UK

Oxford University ousted from top spot for the first time

(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

British universities are among some of the most "international" in the world, according to Times Higher Education (THE).

Five of the top ten institutions in the magazine's list for 2016 were from the UK: Imperial College London; the University of Oxford; the University of Cambridge; University College London, and the London School of Economics.

The universities are ranked according to the number of foreign staff and students on campus and its international reputation - "outward-looking characteristics" that are increasingly important in the globalised world of academia and cutting-edge research, says THE's Ellie Bothwell.

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"Today's universities are typically focused on attracting the best students and scholars from around the world, launching partnerships with overseas institutions and businesses, incentivising cross-border research collaborations and educating their students to become 'global citizens'," says the magazine.

Small but wealthy nations with an export-based economy dominate the top of the rankings, with Swiss universities taking the top two spots, followed by institutions in Hong Kong and Singapore.

As well as the UK, Canada and Australia also rank highly in the top 150, benefitting from the predominance of English as the lingua franca of research. The only non-English speaking university in the top 20 is the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

Marnie Hughes-Warrington, deputy vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, which came seventh in the list, said being able to hire the brightest academics from around the globe and to collaborate with international institutions was raising academic standards.

"A diverse workforce makes for a smarter workforce," she told THE. "It makes for better outcomes in research and better outcomes for teaching."

Here are the 25 universities with the strongest international outlook:

1 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland

2 Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland

3 University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

4 National University of Singapore, Singapore

5 Imperial College London, United Kingdom

6 University of Oxford, United Kingdom

7 Australian National University, Australia

8 University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

9 University College London, United Kingdom

10 London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom

11 King's College London, United Kingdom

12 University of British Columbia, Canada

13 University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

14 University of New South Wales, Australia

15 University of Zurich, Switzerland

16 Ecole Polytechnique, France

17 University of Warwick, United Kingdom

18 University of Melbourne, Australia

19 University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

20 University of Manchester, United Kingdom

The UK's top 20 universities for employability

17 November

The University of Cambridge has been named the top UK institution for preparing graduates for the workplace, according to this year's Global University Employability Ranking.

Oxford comes in at second place, but half of the top ten universities are based in London, according to the list, published by Times Higher Education.

Cambridge tops the table thanks in part to its formidable network of more than 400 alumni in influential positions around the world. Many Cambridge graduates go on to lead companies or become high profile political and cultural players.

Second-placed Oxford can boast at least 30 international leaders, 27 British prime ministers, 50 Nobel prize winners and 120 Olympic medalists from its graduate base, securing its reputation among employers.

However, there is also a reasonable spread of universities from the north to the south. The University of Manchester came fourth, beating Imperial, King's and UCL.

In seventh place comes the University of Edinburgh, the top university in Scotland, while the University of Bristol finishes joint ninth.

Less encouragingly, the global employability survey on which the results are based found that the reputation of UK university graduates has fallen behind that of Germany in 2016.

Only two UK institutions made it into the top ten world universities for employability: Cambridge (4th) and Oxford (7th). The top three were all based in the United States: California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

The top universities in the UK for graduate employability are:

1 University of Cambridge

2 University of Oxford

3 London School of Economics

4 University of Manchester

5 Imperial College London

6 King's College London

7 University of Edinburgh

8 University College London

=9 London Business School

=9 University of Bristol

11 University of St Andrews

=12 City University London

=12 University of Leeds

=14 Cardiff University

=14 The Open University

=14 University of Durham

=14 University of York

=18 London College of Law

=18 Manchester Business School

=18 University of Liverpool

Best universities in the world: UK tops league table

22 September

The University of Oxford has become the first UK institution to lead the annual Times Higher Education rankings, knocking the five-times champion, the California Institute of Technology, into second place.

Oxford topped the list because it has improved across the four main indicators that influence the rankings – teaching, research, citations and international outlook, Times Higher Education said.

Rankings editor Phil Baty welcomed the news but voiced his concern at the consequences of the UK's vote to leave the EU.

"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," Baty told the BBC.

"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 University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, also feature in the top ten, while University College London (UCL) slipped from 14th place last year to 15th.

Overall, the UK takes 91 of the top 980 places in the 13th annual Times Higher Education rankings; 88 of these make the top 800 compared with 78 last year.

The list is dominated by US universities. Stanford University is ranked third, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifth, Harvard sixth and Princeton seventh. The University of California, Berkeley and the University of Chicago are joint tenth.

More broadly, the rankings show that institutions in Asia have made progress - two new names are now in the top 100 and another four join the top 200.

"The UK will have to watch out for Asia's continuing ascent. Although the notion of Asia as the 'next higher education superpower' has become something of a cliche in recent years, the continent's rise in the rankings is real and growing," says Baty.

The world's top 20 institutions:

  1. University of Oxford, UK
  2. California Institute of Technology, US
  3. Stanford University, US
  4. University of Cambridge, UK
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
  6. Harvard University, US
  7. Princeton University, US
  8. Imperial College London, UK
  9. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland

=10. University of Chicago, US

=10. University of California, Berkeley, US

  1. Yale University, US
  2. University of Pennsylvania, US
  3. University of California, Los Angeles, US
  4. University College London, UK
  5. Columbia University, US
  6. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, US
  7. Duke University, Durham, US
  8. Cornell University, US
  9. Northwestern University, US
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