Edinburgh climbs world university league

Edinburgh made the list, but no other Scots institution were in the top 100. Picture: Greg Macvean

Edinburgh made the list, but no other Scots institution were in the top 100. Picture: Greg Macvean

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ONE of Scotland’s leading universities has climbed a prestigious league of the world’s top higher education institutions, which is based on global reputation.

The University of Edinburgh rose three places to 46th in the annual Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, the only Scottish institution to make the top 100.

The league table, which is based on a survey of senior academics, is dominated by what its compilers described as Anglo-American “super-brands”.

First place was taken by Harvard, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came second and Cambridge University third. The only other UK university to make the top ten was Oxford in fourth.

Phil Baty, rankings editor at Times Higher Education magazine, said: “There is some good news for the UK, but only for a handful of its elite institutions. Outside the chosen few, there is cause for alarm: the UK has lost three institutions from the world top 100 list since the reputation rankings were first published in 2011.

“Traditionally, the strength in depth of the UK system has been one of its great features. Having a large number of institutions with truly world-class standing has delivered huge returns for the whole sector and the wider economy.

“However, it now seems that a gap is opening up between the very best and the rest, with even household-name institutions, like Sheffield and Leeds, losing their lustre and falling down the rankings.”

The reputation rankings are a subsidiary of the annual World University Rankings, described as the “gold standard” by which to judge the performance of universities.

The reputations list is based on the largest worldwide invitation-only survey of senior academic opinion, providing the only global index based on the power of university brands.

The United States continues to dominate, with 43 universities in the top 100. However, compilers said its dominance was “slowly waning”, as it had 45 representatives in the top 100 in 2011 and 44 last year.

Outside the US, the UK has the most representatives with nine, but its overall showing has declined since 2011, when it had 12.

In terms of representation in the top 100, the US and the UK are followed by Australia, which has moved ahead of Japan and the Netherlands and now has six representatives, up from four last year.

Japan, the Netherlands and Germany each have five top 100 institutions, while France has four representatives.

Perhaps the most notable change, however, is the growing reputation of Asian insitutions, with the National University of Singapore climbing one place to 22nd and Seoul National University entering the top 50.

The University of Hong Kong takes 36th position, up from 39th in 2012 and 42nd in 2011. The National Taiwan University has risen from the 81-90 band in 2011 to the 51-60 group this year.

Last year’s overall World University Rankings, which are based on a range of criteria, saw the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and St Andrews all slip down, with only Edinburgh improving on the position it held last year.

Scotland’s poor showing in the league table, which ranks institutions based on teaching, research and international outlook, prompted the authors to question whether the Scottish Government’s decision to keep tuition free for Scots and EU students was sustainable.

Commenting on the reputation rankings, a spokesman for Edinburgh University said: “It’s always pleasing to perform positively in rankings such as this, but it needs to be borne in mind that there is a variety of league tables used to rank universities nationally and internationally. They all use different criteria and positions fluctuate accordingly from year to year.”

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