Cambridge world’s No 1 University for second consecutive year

7 September 2011

The University of Cambridge has retained its prime position in the QS World University Rankings.

Last year Cambridge ousted Harvard University from the top spot, which the US institution had hitherto held onto for every year since 2004.

Vice Chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz said: “As one of the world’s leading research universities Cambridge makes a unique contribution to society and to the individual, not just here in the UK but globally. We help to uphold the reputation of the UK as a centre of excellence internationally.”

“While university league tables tend to over-simplify the range of achievements at institutions, it is particularly pleasing to note that the excellence of the transformative research, research that changes people’s lives, carried out at Cambridge is so well regarded by fellow academics worldwide,” Pro-Vice Chancellor for Planning and Resources, Steve Young said in a statement.

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS, explained: “The gap between Cambridge and Harvard is very small, but Cambridge’s superior student/faculty ratio helped tip the balance. Individual attention is one of the key attractions of the Oxbridge tutorial system.”

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “British universities have the edge on international indicators, particularly international faculty, the proportion of staff who are from overseas.”

Oxford University was the next highest rated British university at fifth, one place above where it came in 2010.

Other British universities to make the top ten were Imperial College at sixth University College London at seventh. Both institutions slipped from their position last year. UCL slipped by place, while Imperial dropped a sizeable four places from its 2010 ranking.

Although the number of British higher education institutions in the top 100 slid from 19 last year to 18, 31 made it into top 200, an increase on 30 last year.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the success of British institutions was “well deserved”.

“Our reforms will put students at the heart of the system, allowing popular universities to expand and putting the sector on a sustainable financial footing.

“We expect total funding for UK universities to grow by around 10% by 2014-15.”

By contrast, while Sowter said it “welcome news” news that the controversy surrounding cuts to higher education spending and raised tuition fees did affect British rankings this year, he believed “the worst effects of the funding cuts have yet to be felt by UK universities.

“Pre-emptive redundancies and increased student intake have led to worse student to faculty ratios relative to their international peers.

“Of the 37 UK universities in the top 300, 34 fared worse in this measure than in 2010.”

This year information on tuition fees has been published for the first time.

British institutions, many of whom will increase fees to £9000 in 2012, trailed behind their continental counterparts with regards to value for money.

Courses in a number of universities the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden, Maastricht and Groningen cost less than £2000 a year.

QS rankings are measured 40% on the academic reputation of the university, 10% on employability of graduates, 20% ton research citations, 20% on the staff-student ratio and 10% on the make-up of international the make-up of the staff and student body. Over 2000 higher education institutions worldwide are considered.

Judith Welikala

Photo: James Appleton