Nearly two in three British universities in the top 200 institutions in the world have slipped down the rankings – and Brexit could damage the UK’s reputation further, experts say.
Cambridge has dropped from second to third place in the World University Rankings, while a number of leading London universities have also fallen in the global table.
Of these 28 British institutions, 18 have dropped by at least one place in the past 12 months, figures reveal.
Increasingly strong competition from Asian institutions has begun to squeeze the UK out of its traditional top spots, while limited relations with industry are letting some elite institutions down.
Japan has extended its lead over the UK on overall representation, claiming 110 places, up from 103 in 2018, after overtaking Britain as the second most represented nation in the world last year.
The University of Oxford bucked the trend and retained its top position for the fourth year in a row.
But experts warn that Brexit could see UK universities dip further in the international rankings.
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Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at THE, said: “British universities have long been able to attract the most talented academics and students from across the world, but there are signs that this is becoming more difficult ahead of Brexit.
“If the UK starts to withdraw from the international stage its position in the upper echelons of the rankings will suffer.”
The data also reveals that US still leads the way with 172 institutions in the global league table and 60 in the top 200.
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The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) overtook Cambridge to take second place and the University of Chicago overtook Imperial College London to take ninth place.
Meanwhile, the University of St Andrews fell 33 places to joint 198th and Newcastle University dropped out of the elite global 200 altogether.