18 UK universities reach QS top 100

Most UK HEIs have slipped slightly on the QS World University Rankings but four remain among the world's top 10

Eighteen universities were ranked in the world’s top 100 by QS, albeit in lower positions than last year.

Cambridge University dropped to seventh in the world – its lowest ever position on the  Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.

The University of Manchester climbed to 27th, its best rank in a decade and the second highest position it has ever held.

The University of Oxford continues to be ranked the best UK institution and rose to fourth in the world, up one spot from last year.

The international league table ranks the top 1,000 institutions in the world.

Although the UK ranks as the second most popular destination for international students, we are at risk of losing ground to global competitors including the USA, Australia and Canada through an uncompetitive immigration system – Alistair Jarvis

Two-thirds of universities ranked among the world’s best have been downgraded since last year, but UK institutions continues to occupy four of the top 10 spots and 18 of the top 100.

St Andrews, which was recently ranked above Oxford by the Guardian’s University Guide, dropped from 77th to 100th on the QS’s table.

UCL, Bristol and Glasgow all improved their league table position compared to last year. Durham has climbed more than 10 places in five years and LSE more than 20.


The rankings are based on the following metrics:

Academic peer review40%
Staff/student ratio20%
Citations per faculty20%
Employer reputation10%
International student ratio5%
International staff ratio5%

The number of Chinese universities in the top 100 has risen from two in 2010 to six in 2020.

By contrast, the number of American universities making the top 100 has slipped slightly from 31 to 29.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “These latest statistics confirm what other rankings have also shown – the strength of the UK’s world-leading university sector, which is celebrated for the quality of teaching and research. Four of the top 10 ranked universities are in the UK and five of the top 50 are in London alone. It’s vital we  maintain this leading position.”

“Although the UK ranks as the second most popular destination for international students, we are at risk of losing ground to global competitors including the USA, Australia and Canada through an uncompetitive immigration system. Government must do more to support a system that is attractive to international students, whose presence is worth billions to the UK in direct and knock on effects, sustaining 200,000 jobs and enriching the lives of all student communities.”

The top 10 universities in 2020:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. Harvard University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. California Institute of Technology
  6. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  7. University of Cambridge
  8. UCL
  9. Imperial College London
  10. University of Chicago

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