Live blog: HE sector responds to THE World University Rankings 2016-2017 results

The latest reaction to the World University Rankings as it comes in

September 22, 2016
World University Rankings 2016-2017

Access the results of the 2016-2017 World University Rankings in full

The results of the 2016-2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings are hot off the press, and the higher education sector is responding.

You can read the results and analysis here. The main headline is arguably that the world has a new number one institution, with the University of Oxford becoming the first UK university to claim the top spot. 

Universities from 79 countries feature in the ranking, which this year features almost 1,000 universities (up from 800 last year). The US is the most-represented nation overall, followed by the UK, Japan and China. Details of the countries represented in the elite top 20 are available here

Here is how the world of higher education is responding to the latest results. This page will be updated throughout the day. 


Justine Greening, UK education secretary:

“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 that it delivers the quality teaching and skills that students and employers expect. We are also looking at proposals to require universities to open or sponsor schools to help create more great school places and ensure that every child can fulfil their potential.”


Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford (ranked number 1):

“This wonderful news recognises the extraordinary talent and dedication of all who work and study at Oxford. We are delighted with this affirmation of our global success and will be working hard to maintain our position.”


Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group:

"The UK’s leading universities continue to punch well above their weight with 12 Russell Group universities ranked in the top 100 in the world – of which three are in the top 10. However, our nearest competitors continue to snap at our heels. More Chinese universities appear in the top 200 than ever before, while our competitors in Germany and Japan continue to benefit from significant investment.  

“The uncertainty created by Brexit makes increased investment in science, research and innovation in the UK even more important for our leading universities to stay ahead of the chasing pack and to boost the country’s economy. If we want to continue our success and stave off growing competition, the UK must show that its doors are open to the very best and brightest academics and students from anywhere in the world."


Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scotland's minister for further education and higher education:

“I welcome these figures that underline our strength in higher education and the value with which the Scottish approach is held globally. Credit is due to the staff and students at all five universities for their hard work to achieve this. Scotland continues to punch above its weight, having more institutions per head of population in the top 200 than any other country except Luxembourg. This continued strong performance is against a backdrop of other European universities suffering in the rankings due to the ascent of Asian institutions. The Scottish government is investing more than £1 billion in our higher education institutions in 2016-2017, ensuring that all of our institutions receive financial support to enable them to deliver high-quality teaching, world-class research and knowledge exchange and remain internationally competitive.”

The University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Dundee and the University of Aberdeen remain in the top 200 universities for 2016-17, meaning that Scotland has more institutions per head of population in the top 200 than any other country except Luxembourg.


Sally Mapstone, principal of the University of St Andrews (ranked =110th):

“I’m delighted to see our international character recognised in this way. Our diverse community, global collaborations and multicultural spirit have always made sure St Andrews has advanced beyond its shores. The benefits of our international community reach far beyond the enrichment of our university environment. Our graduates progress into an incredibly diverse range of destinations and have great contributions to make as some of our brightest global citizens.

“Our strong placing for international outlook is a sign of great strength in the post-Brexit era. One of my first priorities as principal is to engage with the government to make sure that St Andrews has the optimal operating environment to continue to rank among the best and build on its reputation for excellence. Meanwhile, I hope that today’s results send a clear message – St Andrews welcomes the world.”


Stefan Leible, president of Bayreuth University (ranked in the 251-200 band):

“The THE ranking is a leading global higher education ranking, which has continually refined its methodology over the past years and tailored it to fit the global landscape of higher education. We are therefore all the more pleased that the University of Bayreuth has consolidated its position in this leading international group. The latest results provide impetus for us to continue to develop our international profile in research and teaching.”


Tan Chorh Chuan, president, National University of Singapore (24th):

“We are pleased that NUS continues to do well in global university rankings, in particular to advance two places to 24th worldwide and maintain our position as Asia’s top university in the latest THE World University Rankings. The NUS will continue to focus on nurturing future-ready graduates, pursuing research excellence, and creating strong translational impact and real-world value from our research.”

Some 289 Asian universities from 24 countries made the rankings, with NUS the highest ranked.


Chris Whelan, executive director of Universities New Zealand:

“These are extraordinary results considering just how competitive global university education has become. New Zealand’s university sector has worked relentlessly to enhance teaching and research activities, to increase international relationships and profile, and to provide graduates with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce and in life.”

Eight New Zealand universities made the top 600 in the world. The University of Auckland remains New Zealand's top-ranked institution, improving from joint 172nd to joint 165th position, followed by the University of Otago (201-250). 


Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK:

This table, and other rankings, suggest that the UK continues to possess, by some margin, one of the strongest university systems in the world. The UK has more universities in the top 800 than any other country, other than the US.

“We achieve this against intense international competition, with major competitors such as China investing heavily in their universities. It is a real achievement that the UK remains the second strongest university system in the world, despite spending significantly less on higher education than our main competitor countries.

“In order to maintain our global position, we need a new approach to immigration and visas for international students and staff. We must also focus efforts on promoting the UK’s world-class higher education sector across the globe. This is more important than ever as the UK looks to enhance its place in the world post-Brexit. Such rankings, however, cannot tell the whole story about the strength of our sector and universities' positions will vary from one international table to the next.”

More to follow

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