11 October 2012
Former UK foreign secretary Jack Straw has urged policy makers in continental Europe to consult the Times Higher Education World University Rankings when making decisions about higher education.
Mr Straw, who served in the cabinet throughout the Labour government's 13 years office, said that it should be a cause of concern for European leaders that, excluding the UK, just one of the institutions in the top 50 comes from within the European Union.
"Just last week, Times Higher Education gave details of its top 200 listings of universities and research establishments around the world," Mr Straw said, addressing the University of Southern California's Global Conversation event in London.
"What...should be sobering for continental policy makers, if you look down the list of the top 50, allowing for the fact that universities of similar status will shift around a bit, there is just one university, Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, from the continental EU."
He added that if universities were aiming to provide "the research base...for the future", then continental Europe had "a serious problem".
"The data are interesting. Of the world's top 10 universities, seven are in the United States. I have to add that three are British by the way, which is good news," Mr Straw said.
In a question and answer session, former chief scientific adviser to the government, Sir David King, said many European universities were performing well despite not featuring on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Mr Straw responded: "I [wouldn't] make anything ...out of [not featuring in] the top 10, but when you get down to the fifties, the hundreds, to 150, 200, I think there is a point which policy makers should recognise in those countries [that do not feature]"
Chris Parr is social media reporter, Times Higher Education