The Scottish capital’s university has climbed from 46th place to 29th in the latest Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings.
Edinburgh is the only Scottish institution in a list which now has 12 UK universities included this year, up from 10 last year and nine in 2013.
Reacting to Edinburgh’s move into the upper reaches of the league table, its principal and vice-chancellor Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea said: “Our rise in these rankings is not only great news for the university but also for Scotland.
“It is a tribute to the quality of our staff and students and confirms the University of Edinburgh as one of the world’s leading research and teaching establishments whose activity is having an impact on a truly global scale.”
However, the results show that for the fifth year in a row there is an elite group of six US and UK “super brands”, the authors suggested, which are “head and shoulders above the rest”.
Harvard took first place again this year, followed by Cambridge which has moved up fourth, and Oxford, which has risen from fifth to third.
Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, said: “This has been a good year for the England, with the South-east ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge cementing its position at the heart of higher education’s global elite, drawing in talent and investment from across the world.”
He added that it is “great news” that the UK was punching above its weight with a large number of prestigious universities as this would help to ensure that the country continues to attract talent and operate as an international hub for science and innovation.
But Mr Baty also voiced concerns that UK’s top universities were isolated to the south of England, adding: “It must be a concern for the many regions that so many of our top institutions are concentrated in London and the South-east.
“England’s top six institutions (and seven of all 11 English universities in the ranking) are all in the Oxbridge-London ‘golden triangle’, and these institutions will continue to draw in the leading talent from England and beyond, supply the most desirable graduates into the local workforce and attract the lion’s share of business investment. It is a virtuous circle as success breeds future success.”
Mr Baty said there is a risk that if resources for universities become even more scarce after the election, “whoever wins, the rich of the South-east will keep getting richer at the expense of the rest of the country.”
But Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “While rankings cannot provide a complete picture, and there is an obvious element of subjectivity when it comes to reputation, it is clear that the UK continues to excel in this area. We have the second-strongest university system in the world after the US, something of which we should be rightly proud.”
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