Europe, Australia stall in global reputation ranking

The rankings, published for the fourth time by THE last Wednesday, place the world's top 100 universities from 20 countries by reputation based on surveys of academics.

Organisers said that this year showed "worrying" evidence of reputational decline among UK institutions despite the continued dominance of six established Anglo-American "super-brands".

Harvard is in first place, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in second, Stanford third, Cambridge fourth, Oxford fifth and University of California, Berkeley, sixth.

Stanford's rise of three places from sixth last year pushes Oxford and Cambridge down a place each. And the California Institute of Technology's rise, up two places to ninth, displaces the University of Tokyo from the top 10 - the first time it has failed to secure a spot since the reputation rankings were established in 2011.

The US takes the top three places, eight of the top 10 (up from seven last year) and 46 of the top 100 (up from 43 in 2013). Of those 46 institutions, only 14 have lost ground, mostly public universities affected by state funding cuts.

British performance down

After the US, the UK has the most top 100 representatives - 10, up from nine last year. However, this compares with 12 in 2011, and the data also reveal a concerning polarisation between the 'golden triangle' of London, Oxford and Cambridge, and the rest of the UK.

The University of Bristol drops out of the top 100 in 2014. It follows the University of Leeds, which did so last year, and the University of Sheffield, which lost its top 100 place in 2012. Moreover, the University of Manchester exits the top 50 (from 47 in 2013 to the 51-60 band).

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, says: "Given how important global reputation is in attracting top international talent, collaborations and investment, this is cause for concern. The UK has some of the world's biggest university brands: we must protect them."

Bahram Bekhradnia, president of the UK's Higher Education Policy Institute, says: "Given the UK's size, this survey suggests we are still punching above our weight as far as research performance is concerned: at more than four times our size, the US has only around four times the number of universities in the top 100.

"What is worrying though is the apparent deterioration in the reputation of a number of our universities. At a time when despite economic problems others have sought to protect their research investment, we have seen a real-terms decline, which could amount to over 20% in 10 years. We should expect our research output to follow: it is difficult to imagine why not."

Mainland Europe, Australia

Germany is third after the US and the UK, gaining one top 100 entrant, RWTH Aachen University, taking it to six institutions in the rankings.

Other European nations fare less well, with two French institutions falling out of the top 100 - Universite Paris-Sud and Ecole Polytechnique - leaving the country with just two universities in the top 100.

Sweden now has just one top 100 institution, the Karolinska Institute, compared with three last year. While Karolinska rises from the 61-70 band to 51-60, Uppsala and Lund universities exit the tables. Russia's flagship Lomonosov Moscow State University slips out of the top 50.

And Australia's universities have lost ground compared with 2013, when it was third. In fourth place this year, after Germany, it now has five top 100 representatives, down from six in 2013.

Monash University, which scraped in last year, loses out after a small drop in performance. Only one Australian institution, the University of Melbourne (down four places to joint 43), remains in the top 50 compared with three last year, although the country's performance has remained largely stable since the survey began in 2011.

Asia up overall

Asia's strongest performer by a distance is Japan, with five top 100 representatives.

While its flagship Tokyo University exits the top 10, its peers do better: Kyoto University makes the top 20, Osaka University enters the top 50 and the Tokyo Institute of Technology rises from the 61-70 band to 51-60.

China and the special administrative region of Hong Kong have had a mixed year.

China's top institution, Tsinghua University, slips one place to 36, but Peking University climbs four places to 41. While Hong Kong's highest-placed representative, the University of Hong Kong, falls from 36 to joint 43, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology rises a band to 51-60, edging closer to the top 50 after starting in the 91-100 band in 2011.

South Korea has done well this year, gaining an extra representative, Yonsei University, which jumps straight into the 81-90 band.

Meanwhile, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology moves from 61-70 to 51-60 while the country's flagship, Seoul National University, becomes Asia's biggest riser, leaping from 41 to 26.

The rankings

The World Reputation Rankings are based on a global invitation-only opinion poll carried out by Ipsos MediaCT for Times Higher Education's rankings data supplier, Thomson Reuters.

The poll has attracted 58,117 responses from more than 150 countries in four annual rounds.

The 2014 results are based on 10,536 responses from published senior academics who reported an average of 18 years working in higher education. The full methodology of the survey, and a copy of the survey instrument, are available here.