Many of the UK's top universities are at risk of losing their world class reputation, leaving only Oxbridge and London institutions as the last bastion, new rankings reveal.
Universities in cities such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle look set to are at risk of losing their acclaim as being among the best in the world to study for a degree. The "golden triangle" of Oxford, Cambridge and London, meanwhile, is fast becoming Britain's last bastion of world class education and research.
The latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2013/14 show that overall, the UK is holding its position, with 31 institutions in the top 200, more than any other country except the United States.
But a number of institutions outside London and Oxbridge have dropped down the table.
The rankings rate universities worldwide on 13 measures including teaching, research and their international outlook, which includes the number of overseas students and staff they have.
Story continues below gallery..
University of Cambridge, UK.
Established in the early 13th Century, Cambridge is regarded as very beautiful, and also one of the best universities in the world. The most famous building at Cambridge, King’s College Chapel, is a great example of Gothic architecture.
University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Set against the unique background of natural South Africa, Cape Town University is the second oldest university in Africa. The main campus area is located near the slopes of Devil’s Peak, with the mountains looming ominously above the main buildings. There's also lions on campus. Maybe.
Pepperdine University, America.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, California, Pepperdine is hard to beat when it comes to breath-taking views. Its iconic Mediterranean architecture adds to the coastal feel of the campus, making it a very lovely place to study.
Moscow State Building, Russia.
The statuesque main building of Moscow State stands apart from the rest. Its stately features are reflected it a pool at its base—though relatively young, the university is still a striking feature of Moscow, along with the bears.
University of Otago, New Zealand
Situated in the already picturesque New Zealand, this university’s campus simply builds off of the natural beauty around it. The buildings combine both the old and new, while blending seamlessly with the green spaces and the Leith River winding through the heart of campus. It also has lovely blossoms, as you can see.
University of Oxford, UK.
Going back to Old Blighty, Oxford is a rather attractive university. Although it does not have a central ‘campus,’ its 38 unique colleges are each beautiful in their own respect. Highlights include Christchurch, Magdalen College, and New College. Centuries of various architecture can be found within meters of each other, and it truly makes visiting Oxford a magical experience.
The Queens University of Belfast, Northern Ireland
The face of the university, the Lanyon Building, was built in 1849 in the Tudor Gothic style. Though not all of the university buildings adhere to this aesthetic, the red brick provides a warm welcome to all those who visit.
Mount Holyoke College, America.
Nestled in Massachusetts, the all-female college campus was built starting in the 1890s. Features include stunning waterfalls, lakes, riding trails, and even a designated botanic garden.
The University of Sydney, Australia.
The oldest university in Australia, the engaging Sydney University campus is spread across two suburbs. Architecture ranges from modern to Neogothic, the style of the Quadrangle and Great Tower buildings seen here.
Xiamen University, China.
Situated by the Xiamen bay, the campus backs up into the foothills of green mountains. Serene views and a mix of modern and classic Chinese architecture greet visitors to the campus, which is one of the main tourist attractions in Xiamen. Which is in the southeast of China.
Aarhus University, Denmark.
Planned and constructed in the 1930s while still continuing construction into today, Aarhus University is one of the more recent universities on the list. The campus has a unified, cohesive look, achieved by fabricating all buildings with a yellow brick. Its location among a hilly park forms an inviting place to take a stroll.
University of Virginia, America.
The quintessential southern US university, UVA is known for its Jeffersonian architecture, broad green spaces, and use of red brick throughout the campus. Its main building and symbol of the university, The Rotunda, showcases white columns and has inspired similar architecture across the United States.
University of Rostock, Germany.
Rostock is one of the oldest universities in the world, with its beginnings dating back to 1419. However, it has continued to develop in the 21st Century with modern buildings like the library contrasting with older architecture for the main building and the Institute of Anatomy.
Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland.
With buildings spreading throughout the city of Wroclaw, this university has diverse range of building types with emphasis on modernist designs. Its main facilities are clustered near the calm Oder River.
Peking University, China.
The unique aspect of this campus is its location—the former Qing Dynasty royal gardens. Many beautiful traditional Chinese structures, such as pagodas, bridges, houses and gardens remain because of this historical link, and many travel to northwest Beijing to tour the campus.
The UK has three universities in the top 10, with Oxford taking second place alongside Harvard in the US. Cambridge University was seventh, and Imperial College London took tenth place. There were seven UK universities in the top 50, and 11 in the top 100, up one from 10 last year.
London had four institutions in the top 40, compared with three last year, more than any other city in the world.
These were Imperial College, which was down two places to 10th; University College London, which fell four places to 21st; London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), up seven places to 32nd; and King's College London, which rose 19 places to 38th.
Other London institutions to rise included Royal Holloway, University of London, up from 119th to 102nd, and Queen Mary, University of London which took 114th spot.
But a number of leading UK institutions fared less well, the rankings show.
Since the 2011/12 tables, Manchester has fallen from 48th to 58th, Bristol has gone from 66th to 79th, Sheffield from 101st to 112th, Aberdeen from 151st to 188th, Reading from 164th to 194th and Newcastle from 146th to 198th.
Since last year, Nottingham has gone from from 120th to 157th, Southampton from 130th to 146th and Warwick from 124th to 141st.
Top of this year's rankings was the California Institute of Technology, which was in first place for the third year running.
The rest of the top 10 was made up of Oxford and Harvard in joint second place, Stanford University in fourth, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, (5), Princeton (6), Cambridge (7), University of California, Berkeley (8), University of Chicago (9), Imperial College London (10).
Phil Baty, editor of the rankings, said: "On the whole, the UK has had a very stable year, with little overall change to its position behind the US as the world's second best higher education nation. This is good news after stark evidence of decline in last year's rankings.
"But there are still concerns for our world-leading 'brand name' institutions: Imperial College London, University College London plus the universities of Manchester and Bristol have all slipped to varying degrees. Although other institutions have risen, and some significantly, such global brands act as flagships for the rest of the UK, so this is a worry."
Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell said: "Scottish universities are known at home and abroad for their excellence and this is highlighted by the fact that five of our universities feature in these international rankings. Scotland has the most universities per head of population which clearly shows we continue to excel and build on our unrivalled record of success."
He added that the Scottish Government's "substantial investment" of more than £1 billion a year in higher education was "paying off and, most importantly, delivering exceptional opportunities for students and employers".
Russell added: "Earlier this year we announced additional funding, based on the levels of world leading research. I am sure the commitment and dedication of our universities and their staff, helped by our funding, will ensure our higher education system continues to go from strength to strength."
Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, president of vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, said: "This table, and other rankings, shows that the UK continues to possess, by some margin, the second-strongest university system in the world after the US.
"Such rankings, however, cannot tell the whole story about the strength of our sector. Universities' positions will vary from one international table to the next and this is just a small snapshot of all our universities' activities.
"What is clear, however, is that the UK must continue to invest in higher education if we are to maintain this global competitiveness."
Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge said: "With 11 universities in the top 100, we are second-only to the US and the UK still outflanks the majority of its competitors.
"The Government was right to protect research spending and talk up the importance of science and research for the UK's future growth.
"But investment in the UK still lags far behind the US, China and many other Western European countries. And the global race is hotting up - with many Asian universities continuing to climb up the rankings."
Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of Reading University said: "No university can rest on its laurels. No one is guaranteed to retain a top-200 place when the US, Far East and others are investing in research so heavily.
"There are some dramatic year-on-year rises and falls this year, so we should be careful to read too much into a single set of figures,
"It is no surprise that a small number of UK universities at the very top end will remain more stable, with others more likely to fluctuate.
"We've got to be realistic. Research-intensive universities just below the leading institutions are in a very tight, crowded and turbulent international market. Gaining ground becomes tougher every year."
The UK universities in the top 200 are: Oxford (2), Cambridge (7), Imperial College London (10), University College London (21), London School of Economics and Political Science (32), King's College London (38), Edinburgh (39), Manchester (58), Bristol (79), Durham (80), York (100), Royal Holloway, University of London (102), Sheffield (112), Queen Mary, University of London (114), Glasgow (117), St Andrews (117), Sussex (121), Lancaster (137), Leeds (139), Warwick (141), Southampton (146), Exeter (148), Birmingham (153), Nottingham (157), Leicester (161), Liverpool (169), East Anglia (174), Aberdeen (188), Reading (194), Dundee (196), Newcastle (198).
Some universities share their place with other institutions.
Among the institutions outside London to improve their ranking this year were York, Glasgow, Lancaster, Leeds, Exeter, Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool, East Anglia and Dundee.