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UK falls down global universities league table

2 October 2014

The UK has slipped down a league table ranking the world's best universities released today. The new rankings show Asian institutions continue their rise, backed by strong government financial support.

UCU called for sustained investment if the UK was to remain an important player on the new global stage and not get left behind. It also said that staff needed to be properly rewarded to prevent the best and brightest being tempted to move abroad.

The US remains the dominant force in the World University Rankings, compiled by Times Higher Education magazine, with seven universities in the global top 10 and 74 in the top 200, down from 77 last year. However, while the US and UK have seen institutions drop out of the top 200, Asia now has 24 universities in the top 200 - up from 20 last year.

The UK has two fewer institutions in the global top 200 table with Oxford the highest ranked in third place (down from second last year). The UK's other representatives in the top 10 are Cambridge, which is in fifth spot, and Imperial College London at number nine.

It was a mixed year for the UK institutions that featured in the rankings. Thirteen dropped down the table and the universities of Reading, Dundee and Newcastle fell out of the list. More positively, 16 universities saw their position improve and St George's, University of London, entered the top 200 in joint 196th place.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Our universities continue to perform brilliantly on the global stage and should be rightly congratulated for that. However, we have to recognise that our standing is under threat if we don't match our competitors. The Asian countries are seeing their universities climb the table because of strong support from government, while we face further cuts.

'Unless we wake up to this reality, we risk falling behind. Staff have seen their pay slashed in real terms in recent years and are now being threatened with huge cuts to their pensions. We have to increase support for young academics and ensure people are properly rewarded for working in one of our most successful sectors.'

UCU is balloting members in 67 universities for industrial action to oppose the changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS). USS is the pension scheme for staff at the UK's 'old' universities and covers the most selective institutions, including the Russell Group of universities.

The ballot opens today (1 October) and closes on Monday 20 October. UCU said it will be asking members to back plans for a marking boycott and to refuse to set exams. The action would stop students being set coursework or receiving formal marks and feedback, as well as halting exams.

For more on the ballot and potential industrial action visit:

Last updated: 10 December 2015