London best city for universities, says world rankings

London has the most top ranked universities of any city in the world, according to the latest university rankings.

International students at Tower Bridge

The thirteenth edition of the QS World University Rankings, compiled by global higher education think tank QS Quacquarelli Symonds since 2004, shows that London has four universities in the top 40.


University College London (7), Imperial College London (9), King’s College London (21) and London School of Economics and Political Science (37) are the city’s highest performing institutions. London has a total of 16 universities in the rankings, 44% of which have moved up.


Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Boasting more of the globe’s top universities and welcoming the most international students, London is the higher education capital of the world and I want to make sure it stays that way.

“People who come from abroad to study in London leave as ambassadors for our city, spreading the message that the capital is a fantastic place to live, work and visit. I’m saying loud and clear to the world that London is open as the best place to study, do business and innovate, and a city where all Londoners can take advantage of these opportunities.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the world’s best university for the fifth consecutive year. The University of Cambridge is once again the UK’s top ranked institution.

Amongst UK universities, Cambridge, Oxford, UCL and Imperial remain within the top 10 institutions in the world. The University of Edinburgh joins the top 20 and the University of Manchester enters the top 30.

QS says the United Kingdom comfortably retains its status as the world’s second-best higher education nation, retaining the same number of top-400, top-100, and top-50 universities as in 2015/16’s instalment). However, the evidence suggests the USA is stretching its lead and Asian universities are making inroads.

Elsewhere in the world, Italian and French institutions see significant drops, whilst universities in China, South Korea, and Russia report noteworthy improvements.


The full QS World University Rankings for 2016/17 can be found here.

Notes to Editors

QS World University Rankings ®

The QS World University Rankings is an annual league table of the top universities in the world and is arguably the best-known and respected ranking of its kind. Compiled by the QS Intelligence Unit in close consultation with an international advisory board of leading academics, the QS World University Rankings ® is widely referenced by prospective and current students, university professionals and governments worldwide. The purpose of the rankings has been to recognize universities as the multi-faceted organisations they are and to provide a global comparison of their success against their notional mission of becoming or remaining world-class. The QS World University Rankings are based on four key pillars, research, teaching, employability and internationalisation and the methodology consists of six indicators: academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international students (5%), and international faculty (5%).

Key facts and figures

  • 74,651 academics and 37,781 employers’ responses contributed towards the results, making both surveys the largest of their kind in the world. •Over 3800 institutions were considered for inclusion this year and 916 ranked, 25 more than in 2015. •10.3 million papers indexed by the the Scopus/Elsevier bibliometric database were analysed, and 66.3 million citations counted which amounted to 50.4 million citations once self-citations were excluded QS Intelligence Unit QS has been conducting research in a range of areas since 1990 beginning with a global survey of MBA employers. The QS World University Rankings®, the most established of the range of research projects that QS operates, have been in existence since 2004. To meet the increasing public interest for comparative data on universities and organisations, and the growing demand for institutions to develop deeper insight into their competitive environment, the QS Intelligence Unit (QSIU) was formed in 2008 as a distinct and autonomous department. Committed to the key values of rigorous integrity, unique insight, undeniable value and accessible presentation, QSIU strives to be the most trusted independent source of global intelligence on the higher education sector.

Ben Sowter Sowter is the Head of Research at the QS Intelligence Unit. He holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Nottingham, where he was also awarded the Union Prize for outstanding contribution to the student union and served as chairman of the Nottingham University Debating Society. Ben is fully responsible for the operational management of all major QS research projects and is actively involved in all the collection, compilation and tabulation of all the data that lead to, amongst others, the World University Rankings research with which he has been involved since its initial inception in 2004. A frequent contributor to the press, Ben’s opinion on global education trends and his expertise is used regularly by major global publications.

About Scopus

Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature and features tools to track, analyse and visualize scholarly research. Its comprehensive database contains 55+ million items indexed from 21,000 titles from more than 5,000 publishers worldwide, ensuring broad interdisciplinary coverage in the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences and Arts and Humanities. Scopus was designed and developed with input from researchers and librarians and features direct links to subscribed full-text articles, other library resources and interoperability with applications such as reference management software. Scopus is part of the Elsevier Research Intelligence portfolio which includes the SciVal tools, the Pure system, rich data assets and custom Analytical Services. About Elsevier Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey — and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 33,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries.

Global impact of the QS World University Rankings

IREG approval

QS Quacquarelli Symonds is the first compiler of global and regional university rankings to receive the “IREG Approved” label for three of its research outputs. The Observatory on Academic Rankings and Excellence (IREG) Executive Committee, at its meeting in Warsaw on 15th May 2013, decided to grant to QS the rights to use the “IREG Approved” label in relation to the following three rankings: QS World University Rankings, QS University Rankings: Asia, and QS University Rankings: Latin America. More information on its correct usage is available here. The Global Innovation Index The QS World University Rankings has been used as one of the indicators for the GII since 2013. The QS ranking is the only ranking of its kind to be used for the study.  The GII is co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, a specialized agency of the United Nations).  The annual report consists of a ranking of world economies’ innovation capabilities and results.

The Bank of Communication Sea Turtle Index

The Bank of Communications Sea Turtle Index was developed and produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which benchmarks the potential returns—academic, financial, and social—on an international undergraduate education in 80 cities worldwide. These were chosen first by clustering the top 300 universities from the QS World University Rankings into major cities, allowing for richer data and greater regional diversity in results. EIU analysts then used OECD statistics on the percentage of international students going to each country to decide on the number of cities to feature per country.


[1] HEFCE forecast a grant of £3,674 million being made available for the 2016/17 academic year, with £1,360 million being allocated for teaching. This represents a decrease on 2015/16’s overall grant (£3,971 million) and teaching grant (£1,418 million). HEFCE research funding for research is forecast to increase by £20 million for 2016/17 – the first time it has risen since 2009/10. Source:




For further information please contact Phil Nettleton at London & Partners -