These are the UK universities which rank the highest in the 2021 world league table

Where did your university rank? (Photo: Shutterstock)Where did your university rank? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Where did your university rank? (Photo: Shutterstock)

The best universities in the world have been named in a new list for 2021, with institutions across the UK slumping in the league table for the fourth consecutive year.

Almost three quarters of the country’s universities have slipped down the rankings, marking the worst ever performance for the UK in the international table.

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Why has UK performance dropped?

The world rankings list is compiled by data and research group QS.

Its methodology is based on employer and academic reputation, class size, research output and international and student numbers, and is recognised as one of the most highly regarded international league tables in the world.

While the University of Oxford continued its reign as the best in the UK, the institution dropped from fourth to fifth place in the 2020 list.

University College London slipped two places to clinch its place in the top 10, while Cambridge University held on to its seventh place position.

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Imperial College London climbed one place to rank in eighth, and the University of Edinburgh rounded out the top 20, retaining its place as 20th in the world.

A total of 66 of the UK’s 84 ranked universities saw their staff to student ratio decline - 59 said they had a drop in research citations. A further 51 institutions noted a fall in the number of international students.

Compilers of the rankings attributed the falls to poor teaching and delicining research impact.

QS director of research, Ben Sowter, said the lower rankings in the UK mirror those in North American and European countries, as a result of increasing investment in higher education in other parts of the world.

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Sowter suggested Brexit, financial uncertainty and rapid expansion all contributed to the falls in the UK, and recommended more investment in teaching capacity to help rankings improve.

He said: “Investment in teaching capacity would serve the British higher education sector well, and help it to regain lost ground. 

“So, too, would concerted efforts to ensure that Britain continues to remain an attractive place for talented academics and students to study in the future, and a national desire to continue collaborating with our European and global partners on transformative research projects.

“Increases in student numbers need to come alongside sufficient increases in teaching capacity, without which there is an increased likelihood that teaching quality will suffer.

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The University of Bristol is one UK institution that has faced criticism from its local council for rapid expansion, and slipped outside of the top 50 for the first time this year, falling nine places to rank in 58th place.

The remaining UK universities rounding out the top 50 include the London School of Economics, which fell five places to 49th, King’s College London, which rose to 31st, and the University of Manchester which ranked in 27th.

Which university is the best in the world?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retained the number one spot for the ninth year, with Stanford University taking second place, followed by Harvard University, both of which kept their previous rankings.

Asian universities also had their best performance yet, with 26 featuring in the top 100 in the world, including institutes in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.

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What are the UK rankings for 2020?

These are the top universities in the UK, according to the QS World University Rankings 2021.

University of Oxford

World rank: 5

University of Cambridge

World rank: 7

Imperial College London

World rank: 8

University College London

World rank: 10

The University of Edinburgh

World rank: 20

The University of Manchester

World rank: 27

King’s College London

World rank: 31

The London School of Economics and Political Science 

World rank: 49

University of Bristol

World rank: 58

The University of Warwick

World rank: 62

University of Glasgow

World rank: 77

Durham University

World rank: 86

University of Birmingham

World rank: 87

University of Southampton

World rank: 90

University of Leeds

World rank: 91

University of Sheffield

World rank: 93

University of St Andrews

World rank: 96

University of Nottingham

World rank: 99

Queen Mary University of London

World rank: 114

Lancaster University

World rank: 135

University of York

World rank: 150

Newcastle University

World rank: 152

Cardiff University

World rank: 159

The University of Exeter

World rank: 164

University of Bath

World rank: 173

University of Liverpool

World rank: 181

University of Reading

World rank: 205

University of Aberdeen

World rank: 207

Queen’s University Belfast

World rank: 209

Loughborough University

World rank: 226

University of Leicester

World rank: 242

University of Sussex

World rank: 246

University of Surrey

World rank: 267

University of Strathclyde

World rank: 300

Heriot-Watt University

World rank: 301

Royal Holloway University of London

World rank: 308

University of Dundee

World rank: 319

University of East Anglia

World rank: 333

Birbeck, University of London

World rank: 344

SOAS University of London

World rank: 346

City, University of London

World rank: 350

Brunel University London

World rank: 368

University of Kent

World rank: 380

Oxford Brookes University

World rank: 383

University of Essex

World rank: 411

Goldsmiths, University of London

World rank: 416

Swansea University

World rank: 474

Aberystwyth University

World rank: 485

University of Stirling

World rank: 485

Aston University

World rank: 511-520

Coventry University

World rank: 541-550

Kingston University, London

World rank: 581-590

Bangor University

World rank: 601-650

Ulster University

World rank: 601-650

University of Bradford

World rank: 601-650

University of Hull

World rank: 601-650

University of Portsmouth

World rank: 601-650

Northumbria University at Newcastle

World rank: 651-700

University of Plymouth

World rank: 651-700

University of Westminster

World rank: 651-700

Keele University

World rank: 701-750

Middlesex University

World rank: 701-750

University of Greenwich

World rank: 701-750

University of Huddersfield

World rank: 701-750

Bournemouth University

World rank: 751-800

London South Bank University

World rank: 751-800

Nottingham Trent University

World rank: 751-800

Birmingham City University

World rank: 801-1000

De Montford University

World rank: 801-1000

Edinburgh Napier University

World rank: 801-1000

Glasgow Caledonian University

World rank: 801-1000

Liverpool John Moores University

World rank: 801-1000

London Metropolitan University

World rank: 801-1000

Manchester Metropolitan University

World rank: 801-1000

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

World rank: 801-1000

Sheffield Hallam University

World rank: 801-1000

Robert Gordon University

World rank: 801-1000

University of Brighton

World rank: 801-1000

University of Central Lancashire

World rank: 801-1000

University of East London

World rank: 801-1000

University of Hertfordshire

World rank: 801-1000

University of Lincoln

World rank: 801-1000

University of Salford

World rank: 801-1000

University of the West of England

World rank: 801-1000