Cambridge’s place slipped slightly from fourth last yearLouis Ashworth

Cambridge has been ranked the fifth most prestigious university in the world according to the Times Higher Education Reputation Ranking 2021.

This ranking system is different to the main Times Higher Education ranking because unlike the other, which focuses on factors such as research and teaching, it is based solely on the reputation of universities.

Almost 11,000 academics around the world took part in rating which universities were most prestigious, and overall 202 universities from 29 countries were featured in the final table. 

The survey is invitation-only and uses subject-based metrics to remain “representative of the global distribution of scholars.” 

Harvard ranked as the world’s most prestigious university, whilst Tsinghua University in China entered the top 10 for the first time. China secured a record-breaking 17 universities in the top 200. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology was second place, whilst Oxford was third. 


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The United States dominated the survey, with 13 universities in the top 20, and 57 in the overall 202. The UK had three universities in the top 20, with UCL in 17th place. 

“Reputation is a powerful currency for universities that plays a vital role in attracting student talent, academic talent, new partnerships and even inward investment,” said Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at Times Higher Education.

Regarding China’s improved position in the rankings and increased ability to attract student talent, Baty commented, “this could not only cause issues for the likes of the U.S. and U.K. in terms of attracting talent, but also funding and prestige on the world stage.”