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Cambridge University falls outside of top three world universities

By Ben Comber

Cambridge University
Cambridge University

Funding uncertainty leads to UK universities falling across the board.

For the first time in the 12 years it’s been running, QS World University Rankings have placed Cambridge outside the top three educational institutes in the world, putting it fourth.

The US now hold the top three positions. Cambridge lost the number three spot to Stanford University in the US, which went from fourth to second. Harvard fell from second to third and MIT retained the top spot.

Cambridge’s historical rival Oxford retained its position at number six.

Cambridge topped the subject rankings in Mathematics, History and Archaeology, while Oxford topped the tables in English Language and Literature, Modern Languages and Geography and Area Studies, with Cambridge following in second for all three subjects.

Of the 48 UK universities in the top-400 only 6 have risen (12%).

Ben Sowter, Head of Research at QS Quacquarelli Symonds, observed that a combination of uncertainty and long-term funding issues seem to have impacted negatively on the UK’s performance.

He said: “It’s not universal, but it seems clear, based on a strongly identifiable pattern, that institutions and systems with consistent or improving funding are gaining ground, whilst those being squeezed are losing out.”

“This year’s rankings imply that levels of investment are determining who progresses and who regresses. Institutions in countries that provide high levels of targeted funding, whether from endowments or from the public purse, are rising. On the other hand, some Western European nations making or proposing cuts to public research spending are losing ground to their US and Asian counterparts.”

QS World University Rankings 2016/2017

74,651 academics and 37,781 employers contributed to the rankings through the QS global surveys

QS analyzed 10.3 million research papers and 66.3 million citations

Over 3,800 institutions were considered for inclusion and 916 ranked

The rankings include 916 universities from 81 countries. Thirty-three countries feature in the Top 200

The US dominate, with 48 institutions, ahead of the UK (30), Netherlands (12), Germany (11), Canada, Australia (9), Japan (8), China (7), France, Sweden and Hong Kong (5)

The rankings include 916 universities from 81 countries. Thirty-three countries feature in the Top 200. A spokesperson for QS said that the rankings look at universities which have a strong international profile, and that Anglia Ruskin University falls outside the publication’s threshold this year. However, as the rankings are expanded it may be included.

A blog post on the QS website stated: “Though still making 30 appearances in the top 200, many UK universities have fallen in the table this year. Like many of their counterparts across continental Europe, British institutions are amongst those being forced to give way, as rising stars elsewhere in the world stake their claim to a place among the best.”

The QS World University Rankings are based on four categories: research, teaching, employability and internationalisation.

Six indicators are used, four based on ‘hard data’ and two on global surveys involving academics and employers. The indicators are academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international students (5%), and international faculty (5%).


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