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UK universities top world rankings

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Higher Education, Universities

Jo Johnson, Universities Minister

The University of Oxford has become the first UK university to top the Times Higher Education’s world university rankings.

Oxford is joined by two other UK institutions - University of Cambridge and Imperial College London – in the top ten internationally. With 32 UK universities featuring in the top 200, today’s league tables show the world-class standing of the UK’s higher education sector.

The rankings come just over a week after Education Secretary Justine Greening published a consultation document that includes proposals for universities to set up or sponsor schools. The plans, as outlined in the consultation, are designed to ensure the expertise of our universities is used to not only help create more great school places, but encourage more students from all backgrounds to have the grades and confidence to apply to top universities.

With many universities already successfully working with schools to raise attainment, such as the University of Birmingham, which has opened an impressive new free school for secondary school pupils and sixth formers,  we want to see more brilliant universities sharing their knowledge to make a difference and help more children fulfil their potential.

As set out in the consultation document, the proposals will create a direct link between our world class universities and the school system, including measures to require all universities who want to charge fees over £6,000 to establish a new school in the state system or sponsor an academy.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

Britain has long been home to some of the best universities in the world, and it’s fantastic to see a UK university top these world rankings for the first time.


We want to see this success continue and provide real opportunities for students up and down the country. That is why we are reforming higher education to make sure it delivers the quality teaching and skills that students and employers expect.


We are also looking at proposals for universities to open or sponsor schools to help create more great school places. There are already some excellent examples of universities sponsoring schools. They have expertise that can really help improve our schools system, and it’s in universities’ own interests to improve attainment in schools. We are asking how our world-leading higher education sector can help increase the number of good school places available in more areas, ensuring we give every child an excellent education and the opportunity to fulfil their potential. I would urge everyone to look at the detail in the consultation document and join that debate.

Writing in the Times today, Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:

Today the University of Oxford has topped the Times Higher Education's world rankings – the first British university to do so in the league tables’ 13 year history.

This is not only a great achievement for Oxford, but with two other UK institutions joining them in the top ten alone, and 32 in the top 200, these rankings underline the excellent global standing of UK universities – second only to the US for the number of world class institutions in the top 800.

While our universities are undoubtedly among our greatest national assets, if we are to maintain this global reputation and truly deliver this government’s pledge of securing opportunity for all, there is still more to be done.

These rankings, heavily influenced by research performance, only tell part of the story and now more than ever we need to make sure we have a higher education sector that delivers systematically - for students who are after a decent return on their investment, for employers who need an education system that provides the highly skilled workforce for the future and for taxpayers looking for value for money from their investment in our student loan book.

For the fact is that student satisfaction levels, although high overall, have dropped in the past year and mask some worrying signs -  a third of students still don’t believe their course is offering value for money,  over a quarter have said they weren’t getting effective feedback on their work and too many students end up regretting their choice of course.


And while there are record numbers of disadvantaged students going to university, a gap still persists depending on a student’s background.


That is why we are taking steps to reform higher education. This means delivering on our plans, as promised in the manifesto, to introduce a Teaching Excellence Framework that will for the first time, make teaching as much of a priority for universities as research and put much needed information into the hands of students – allowing them to find out more about the outcomes they can expect from their courses and ensuring the sector is meeting our economy’s need for skilled graduates.


And it’s why we must do more to make sure everyone with the potential to benefit has the opportunity to study at one of our world-leading universities, no matter what their background or where they are from.


As the Prime Minister set out earlier this month, our universities have had a profound impact on our schools over generations – and we want to see more brilliant universities working with schools not only to encourage students to have the confidence to go to university but to help raise standards and tackle poor prior attainment – one of the biggest barriers pupils face to higher education. Our universities are now world leaders and we need to see them help our schools become world-leading too. So we are consulting on proposals for universities to open or sponsor schools – the sort of innovation we have already seen from the likes of the University of Birmingham who have opened an impressive new free school for secondary school pupils and sixth formers.


So yes, let’s be proud of our world-leading higher education system and its history, but let’s not be afraid of taking action to keep our place at the forefront of academic endeavour and make sure that global rankings translate into worthwhile opportunities for every young person in the future.

The consultation closes on 12 December. You can give your views here.

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