UK Universities Excel in QS World University Rankings | Top Universities

UK Universities Excel in QS World University Rankings

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated March 28, 2021 Updated March 28, 2021

Following 12 months of British sporting triumphs, UK universities have registered another international success in the latest QS World University Rankings®.

A record six UK universities make the global top 20 in this year’s QS World University Rankings, with the University of Cambridge (3), UCL (4), Imperial College London (5=) and University of Oxford (5=) all making the top ten. University of Edinburgh (17=) and King’s College London (19=) both move up into the top 20 this year.

US technology research powerhouse MIT tops the rankings for the second successive year, while Harvard moves into second place ahead of Cambridge. The top Continental European institution is Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, in 12th.

UK degrees highly valued by employers

QS’s global survey of 27,000 graduate employers, one of six indicators used to compile the rankings, shows that UK degrees are highly valued by employers worldwide.

Graduates from Oxford and Cambridge were rated as the world’s most employable, with LSE also making the top five, and both Imperial and the University of Manchester in the top 10.

“Clearly the prestige of a UK degree is recognized by employers around the world, and the brand-name value of Oxbridge has so far survived any negative publicity following the tuition fee hikes and student protests,” says QS head of research Ben Sowter.

Yet commentators also warn that present levels of university funding may be insufficient to retain the UK’s privileged position indefinitely.

Of the 45 UK universities that make the global top 400, 29 rank lower now than they did at the time of the 2007/8 financial crisis. 21 UK universities have dropped more than 10 places since the recession; while just five rank more than 10 places higher than in 2007.

Warnings over UK higher education funding levels

While the UK higher education system retains a strong reputation among the world’s academics and employers, the rankings suggest UK universities are struggling to keep up with the US when it comes to producing cutting-edge research.

The University of Cambridge is the only UK institution to make the global top 30 for research citations, and only UCL, Oxford and Imperial join it in the top 50.

In contrast, the US boasts 31 of the top 50 most-cited institutions, led by Caltech, Harvard and Stanford.

“The UK invests below the OECD average in higher education, so it is unrealistic to expect its universities to continue to punch above their weight indefinitely,” says John O’Leary, member of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board. “The current success of leading institutions shows how vital it is that the government matches the investments being made by other countries in order to maintain their world-class status.”

Top 10 UK Universities in the QS World University Rankings® 2013/2014


World ranking in 2013

World ranking in 2012

University of Cambridge



UCL (University College London)



Imperial College London



University of Oxford



University of Edinburgh



King’s College London



University of Bristol



University of Manchester



University of Glasgow



University of Birmingham



See the full QS World University Rankings® 2013/2014 >

This article was originally published in September 2013 . It was last updated in March 2021

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The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'


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