The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

UK Universities ‘face collapse into global mediocrity’

University of Manchester slips one place in world rankings


Top UK universities are on the brink of a “collapse into global mediocrity”, warns Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education.

Baty’s comments come after the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published this week, reveal that leading universities in the UK are being overtaken by Asian institutions.

Despite an increase in overall score of almost 5%, the University of Manchester dropped one place in the rankings from last year – coming 49th. The University has also increased their score in every judging criteria but one: teaching, research, citations and industry income. The only area the University has slipped in is international outlook – down 2.5%.

The University of Manchester declined to comment, stating “the University measures itself by the Shanghai Jiao Tong Index, the only indicator the University refers to in benchmarking against other institutions”.

Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle, amongst others, have also fallen down the rankings. Three UK universities made the top ten – Oxford (joint second), Cambridge (seventh) and Imperial College (eighth).

“Outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England’s world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity, while investment in top research universities in Asia is starting to pay off”, said Baty.

Korea’s four universities in the top 200 have all climbed this year, with Pohang University of Science and Technology at number 50. China and Singapore have two universities apiece making the top 200, all of which have, too, ascended the rankings.

“We cannot afford to slip further behind,” warned University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt. “The UK and other Western nations have seen their reputations slide as they cut funding and the East invests in higher education. We are particularly concerned that, as we struggle to keep pace with our global competitors, the government continues to pursue policies that can only further harm our standing on the world stage.”

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, pointed to public investment as key in ensuring the UK is not left behind.

“Cuts in public investment have seriously weakened some US public universities,” Dr Piatt explained. “If we are serious about staying on top, the government must concentrate investment where it will have the most impact: in our world-class research-intensive universities.”

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, proposed another possible reason for the slide. “I think that the quality of the teaching experience is the biggest challenge going forward”, Willetts told The Mancunion. “We’re actually increasing the cash going to our universities.”

Last month Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester, told The Mancunion she believed “we’re under-spending on higher education in this country”.

Dame Nancy continued, “I appreciate that we’re in difficult times at the moment and there have been cuts across the board, but education is critical for the future.”