21 October 2016
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It educated four of the last six British prime ministers. Photo: Oxford
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It educated four of the last six British prime ministers. Photo: Oxford

Oxford ranked world’s best university; 3 HK schools in top 100

The University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, has topped a global education ranking for the first time.

Oxford knocked the leader for the last five years, California Institute of Technology, into second place in the Times Higher Education’s global league table, which also saw Chinese universities climb rapidly, Reuters reports.

Oxford, which educated four of the last six British prime ministers, ousted its US rival after its research funding rose 10 percent and overall funding rose to 1.4 billion pounds (US$1.83 billion), while the impact of its research increased, said Phil Baty, editor of the rankings.

While Oxford, the University of Cambridge and London’s Imperial College make the top 10 along with ETH Zurich, the list is dominated by US universities.

Stanford University is ranked third, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifth, Harvard sixth, Princeton seventh and the University of California, Berkeley and University of Chicago at tenth equal.

Cambridge was ranked fourth, Imperial eighth and ETH Zurich ninth.

More broadly, the rankings showed institutions in Asia had made progress with two new Asian universities – the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – now in the 100 and another four joining the top 200.

Peking University rose to 29th place from 42, and Tsinghua ranked 35, up from 47th last year.

In Hong Kong, three universities made it to the top 100: University of Hong Kong, No. 43; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, No. 49; and Chinese University of Hong Kong, No. 76.

City University of Hong Kong ranked No. 119 while Hong Kong Polytechnic University was 192nd equal.

Asian universities were “powering up the rankings”, Baty said, with the Chinese government pumping billions of dollars into its universities at the same time that austerity in the west was squeezing budgets.

Over the past eight years, China has invested the equivalent of roughly US$33 billion in developing a group of elite universities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“This is meant to be the year that China overtakes the US on science research and science publication,” Baty said, adding that the country is already leading the world in the number of scientists.

The highest-ranked university in Asia is the National University of Singapore (No. 24), a government-subsidized school with about 38,000 students.

As for British universities, Baty said the UK’s decision to leave the European Union “is a serious risk to our success” by making it harder to attract top academic staff and plug them into research projects.

Brexit risks driving away students, staff and funding, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, told BBC Radio.

Richardson said rival universities had stepped up efforts to poach the 17 percent of Oxford’s faculty who are EU citizens, and whose status in Britain was no longer guaranteed following the June 23 vote.

“There are many universities in the world that would be thrilled to have them and who are approaching them and asking if they would return to their universities instead,” she said.

The government had also offered no reassurance that it would replace around 67 million pounds a year it receives from the European Research Council to fund its work, she said.

“To be honest we’re really quite worried about it.”

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