The X-Men and Star Trek actor, who is chancellor of the University of Huddersfield and who grew up close to the Yorkshire town, said the ranking of young universities was “highly democratic”, in that it was unconcerned with “how much Ivy clings to the walls” of the universities it rated.
“Newness as a concept can be used patronisingly or pejoratively, but it can also denote energy, freshness and innovation,” he said.
Emphasising the role of universities in the north of England in particular in driving economic regeneration, he added: “Corporations, we [at Huddersfield] have learned, are interested in excellence and innovation wherever it is to be found, and increasingly will seek it at universities that are not encrusted with age and tradition and elitism…
“All my life I have loved tradition and history, Shakespeare being my foremost passion, but the 100 Under 50 concept strikes me most particularly as a highly democratic one.
“It says that what matters about a university is the quality and ambition of its research and graduate employability, and not how much ivy is clinging to its walls.”