SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – British universities slipped in newly-published major global league tables amid evidence of a “power shift” towards the Far East.
Figures showed three UK universities dropped out of a list of the world’s 200 top performing higher education institutions while five disappeared from the top 500.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings showed that the United States and UK continued to dominate the very highest positions but there was “worrying evidence of decline”.
It emerged that universities in China, Hong Kong and South Korea showed particular improvement this year, while Germany also had more institutions among the top 200.
Experts said the development represented evidence of a “power shift from West to East”, driven by the fact that many universities were being “starved of vital public funding”.
The tables showed that California Institute of Technology in the United States was named as the best university in the world for the fourth year running while Harvard retained second place.
Oxford was named as the best ranked British university in third – down from joint second last year – followed by Stanford.
Cambridge was fifth – up from seventh – while remaining places in the top 10 were taken up by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, the University of California, Berkeley, Imperial College London, Yale and the University of Chicago.
The UK was second only to the US in terms of the number of top-rated universities, Times Higher Education said.
But it also emerged that some universities fell out of the global elite this year.
Reading, Dundee and Newcastle all dropped out of the top 200, while two others were close to falling, with East Anglia dropping from 174th to 198th and Leicester dropping from 161st to 199th.
In a further disclosure, it was revealed that five UK universities dropped out of the top 400 – Heriot-Watt, Keele, Liverpool John Moores, Loughborough and Surrey, although Aston climbed into the leading positions for the first time.
It follows claims from leading vice-chancellors that universities are struggling to keep up with high-performing peers from overseas because of a squeeze on funding.
Sir Christopher Snowden, the president of Universities UK, has said that the current £9,000 cap on undergraduate tuition fees is no longer sustainable while Prof Andrew Hamilton, the vice-chancellor of Oxford, suggested fee levels should be closer to the full cost of educating students – £16,000 in Oxford’s case.
The league table suggested US universities were also showing relative declines, despite continuing to dominate the leading positions in overwhelming numbers. Some 60 per cent of US universities lost ground this year, falling an average of five places, with publicly-funded institutions being hardest hi, THE said.
By comparison, 2014 was a “strong year” for the Far East, it emerged.
Some 24 Asian universities are now in the top 200 compared with 20 a year earlier. This includes two listed in the top 25 – Tokyo University and the National University of Singapore. Two German universities also entered the top 200 for the first time.
Phil Baty, the ranking’s editor, said: “Western universities, in many cases starved of vital public funding, are losing ground.
“There is much talk of a power shift from East to West, but these new world university rankings provide hard evidence of the phenomenon. There is little doubt that key East Asian nations have emerged as powerhouses in global higher education and research, while traditional leaders including the UK, Canada and the US, risk losing significant ground in the global knowledge economy.”
He said the UK continued to “punch above its weight” but added: “While the elite institutions remain highly competitive at the top of the global rankings, this new data raises a number of key concerns.”
The tables are compiled using 13 key indicators, including research income, research impact, staff/student ratio, the number of international staff and students and reputation.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the rankings suggested Britain continued to “possess, by some margin, one of the strongest university systems in the world”.
“What is clear, however, is that if we want to maintain this leading position, we must start matching our competitors’ increased investment in higher education,” she said. “That is why, before next year’s general election, Universities UK is calling on all parties to reveal how they plan to fund sustainably the world-class teaching and research in our universities.”
Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group, which represents 24 top universities, said:
“The UK’s leading universities continue to outperform many of their global competitors, with 11 Russell Group institutions in the top 100.
“But other universities, particularly those in East Asia, are rapidly catching up, thanks to their governments pumping billions into their best universities. Without increased investment and less regulation in coming years, the UK’s best universities might lose their place as world-leaders.”
Source: The Telegraph