The UK has more top-rated university departments than any other country in Europe, according to a new league table designed to help European students find the best places to undertake postgraduate study.
The ranking, drawn up by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), a German think-tank, looked at about 500 biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics departments from 250 universities in 20 European countries.
It awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to departments in four research- related categories - the number of publications the department produces, the number of citations its papers receive, the number of highly cited authors based there and the department's involvement in the European Union's Marie Curie Programme for researcher mobility.
The UK outperformed all other countries, achieving the highest medal count and the highest number of gold medals. It won 4 medals (39 per cent gold), with 42 universities achieving either silver or gold.
Germany, the UK's closest competitor, won 0 medals (22 per cent gold), with the same number of universities as the UK also winning either a silver or a gold. France won 106 medals (28 per cent gold) and Switzerland won 60 medals (47 per cent gold).
"For the UK it is an outstanding result," said Uwe Brandenburg, the project leader of the CHE study, adding that what was "really outstanding" was the number of UK departments doing well in all four categories. The UK had 14 departments winning either gold or silver across all four categories, compared with four in Germany, three in Switzerland and one in a handful of other countries.
The ranking is meant to plug a gap for students seeking detailed information on the best place to pursue a particular area of study.