Cambridge has moved up to second place in a new ranking of the world's top universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
But the third edition of the ranking remains dominated by US universities, which fill 17 of the top 20 places. As in The Times Higher's world ranking, Harvard University is well ahead of the field.
Oxford University has slipped two places to tenth in the new ranking. The next highest UK university is Imperial College London, in 23rd place.
The table was compiled to determine the gap between Chinese universities and others in the world. The top university in East Asia is Tokyo, in 20th place.
Cambridge this year leapfrogs Stanford University, which beat it to second place last year.
A Cambridge spokesperson said: "Our ranking is testament to the excellence and hard work of our academics."
But Oxford only narrowly beat Yale University to hang on to a place in the top ten.
An Oxford spokesperson said that the varying methodologies of such rankings made it difficult to read much into them.
Against Harvard's top score of 100, Cambridge scored 73.6. This represents a widening of the gap from last year, when second-placed Stanford scored 77.2. In 2003, Stanford, again in second place, scored 83.5.
Bob Mitchell, director of communications in Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences, said: "It's very nice to be recognised, certainly. But we'd also urge students to choose the college that's best for them, rather than whatever comes out best in a survey."
The rankings were based on criteria mainly concerned with scientific excellence.
Thirty per cent of the score was awarded according to the number of staff and alumni winning Nobel prizes and Fields medals, which may have contributed to the success of US institutions.
The table's authors also note that English-speaking countries were likely to have an inherent advantage because emphasis was placed on the number of citations in English-language academic journals.
In The Times Higher's rankings in November 2004, US universities were less dominant, taking only 11 of the top 20 places. Non-US universities in the top 20 included Beijing University - at number 17 - an institution that only just made the top 200 in the Shanghai table.
Harvard had a sizeable lead over its nearest rival, the University of California, Berkeley, which is fourth in the Shanghai table.
The Times Higher's next world university rankings table will be published in October.
Last year's position in brackets