These universities have been ranked as the world's best (and the UK wins)

William Turvill
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The University of Oxford has leapfrogged California Institute of Technology into first place (Source: Getty)

Britain’s boffins may find time to vacate their libraries and science labs this evening – for they have reason to celebrate.

The University of Oxford has become the first UK institution to top the Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University Rankings table, leapfrogging a US rival.

Oxford knocked five-time champion California Institute of Technology into second place, with Cambridge and London’s Imperial College also making the global top 10.

In total, the UK had 91 universities represented in the top 980, up from 78 last year. This is the 13th year the ranking has been compiled.

Global top 10

Institution Country 2016/17 rank (previous)
University of Oxford United Kingdom 1 (2)
California Institute of Technology United States 2 (1)
Stanford University United States 3 (3)
University of Cambridge United Kingdom 4 (4)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States 5 (5)
Harvard University United States 6 (6)
Princeton University United States 7 (7)
Imperial College London United Kingdom 8 (8)
ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland 9 (9)
University of California, Berkeley United States = 10 (13)
University of Chicago United States = 10 (10)

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“It is a great result for the UK higher education sector and cements its position as one of the greatest university nations in the world,” said Phil Baty, editor of the rankings guide.

But he added that Asia’s “continuing ascent” represents a challenge, as does the UK’s Brexit vote.

He highlighted research claiming academics and international talent are less likely to come to, or remain in, the UK after the referendum result, adding: “The UK must ensure that it limits the damage to academics, students, universities and science during its Brexit negotiations, to ensure that the UK remains one of the world leaders in higher education.”

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Top 10 UK universities (global ranking)


University of Oxford (1)

University of Cambridge (4)

Imperial College London (8)

University College London (15)

London School of Economics and Political Science (25)

University of Edinburgh (27)

King’s College London (36)

University of Manchester (55)

University of Bristol (71)

University of Warwick (82)

Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, also raised concerns over Brexit, as well as funding and tighter government regulations.

On Brexit, she said: “In general we are lobbying the government to ensure the interests of universities are protected.”