• Monday, June 24, 2024
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London university named second best in the world after MIT

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Imperial College London has been ranked as the UK’s top university and the second best in the world, beating Oxford and Cambridge for the first time.

A new international league table reveals that Imperial has ended years of Oxbridge dominance, and risen from sixth place to second in the world – behind only Massachusetts Institute of Tehcnology (MIT) in the United States.

The University of Oxford was ranked third and Cambridge fifth, while University College Londoncame ninth in the 2025 QS World University Ranking – meaning four of the top ten global universities are British.

Imperial’s rise up the rankings was put down to its world leading research, outstanding employability scores and an exceptional commitment to sustainability.

A decade ago Imperial was ranked joint second in the world with Cambridge, but this is the first time it stands alone as top UK university.

Professor Hugh Brady, President of Imperial, said: “Imperial’s ranking is a testament to the quality and commitment of our entire community. It is inspiring to see our students, staff, and partners come together every day to interrogate the forces that shape our world and address the challenges facing humanity and our planet.”

But the league table also shows that more than half of the UK universities have declined in rank – including Cambridge which slipped from second place to fifth. It comes as increasing numbers of UK universities face funding shortages and there is ambiguity over the status of international students.

Jessica Turner, QS CEO, said: “In the decade since Imperial College London was last crowned the United Kingdom’s leading university, the country’s sector has relentlessly continued to achieve world-leading performances despite the turbulence the country has faced, producing world-leading research and remaining one of the globe’s premier study destinations.”

She added: “However, this year’s results suggest that British higher education has limited capacity remaining to continue excelling in the face of funding shortages, drops in student applications, and ambiguity about the status of international students. Whatever the result of July’s election, the next government must make a properly resourced, continually championed higher education sector an urgent priority. It is one of the UK’s great assets and achievements and must be maintained accordingly.”

This year’s QS World University Rankings are the largest ever, featuring 1500 universities across 106 higher education systems.
There are 90 UK universities in this year’s league table, making it the second-most represented location, behind the US (197) and above China (71). Fifteen British institutions were ranked in the world’s top 100, two fewer than in last year’s edition.

King’ s College London was ranked 40th in the world – the same as last year, while the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) came 50th – down from 45th last year.

The University of Birmingham was ranked 80th this year, a rise from last year’s 84th place. Other UK Universities in the top 100 include Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Warwick, Glasgow, Southampton, Leeds and Durham.

Universities were ranked according to their performance in different areas, including international reputation, teaching capacity, sustainability, employability, research collaboration.

UK universities achieved the most improvement in the ‘International Research Network’ category – the only category in which most UK universities improved.

The UK saw the greatest overall drop in employment outcomes. Its strongest area was its ‘International Student Ratio’, in which it achieved the world’s second-highest average score among countries with ten or more ranked universities.

But a spokeswoman for the league table said while the UK remains one of the world’s most attractive study destinations, the headwinds facing the sector are changing.

QS CEO Ms Turner said: “It is unsurprising that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has urged the government to maintain its visa policy for students, allowing international graduates to stay for two years post-study for work experience. However, the report suggests that both recent policy changes andthe perception of further restrictions have served to deter international students from seeking to study in the UK. This is also evidenced by a 63 per cent drop in deposits for the visa in September 2024 compared to the previous year.

“Declining international student numbers place financial strain on universities and the wider UK economy, but the negative impact of any enduring decline will be as much cultural and intellectual as economic.”