Reputation of Universities in the United Kingdom

British universities tend to have a strong reputation internationally for two reasons: history and research output. The UK's role in the industrial and scientific revolutions, combined with its imperial history and the sheer longevity of its ancient universities, are significant factors as to why these institutions are world-renowned. The University of Cambridge, for example, has produced 90 Nobel Laureates to date-more than any other university in the world. The reputation of British institutions is maintained today by their continuous stream of world-class research output. The larger research-intensive universities, including many civic universities, are members of the Russell Group, which receives two-thirds of all research funding in the UK.

The perceived rankings of universities in the United Kingdom are also heavily influenced by the popularity in recent years of newspaper league tables that rank universities by teaching and research. Only three universities in the UK have never (since the start of university league tables in the 1990s) been ranked outside the top ten, with Cambridge and Oxford being consistently ranked in the top 3 positions and Warwick no lower than tenth.

The UK's top universities have fared well in international rankings, where three have been consistently ranked in the world top ten according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, these being Oxford (2nd in 2015-16), Cambridge (4th) and Imperial (8th); while the 2015-16 top 50 also includes UCL (14th), LSE (23rd), Edinburgh (24th), and KCL (27th). A further 9 UK universities (16 in total) rank in the top 100 for 2015-16.
A Chinese Academic Ranking of World Universities also places Cambridge (5th in 2015) and Oxford (10th) consistently in the world top ten. University College London (18th), Imperial College London (23rd), The University of Manchester (41st), and the University of Edinburgh (47th) also make the top 50 and 3 more UK universities (9 total) are in the top 100.

In the QS World University Rankings, the Universities of Cambridge (3rd in 2015/16), Oxford (6th), UCL (7th), Imperial (8th) are consistently present in the top ten. KCL (19th), Edinburgh (21st), Manchester (33rd), LSE (35th), Bristol (37th), and Warwick (48th) also make the top 50 and a further 8 UK universities (18 total) make the top 100.

The University of Warwick (est. 1965) and the University of York (est. 1963) ranked 3rd and 6th respectively in the 2012 QS Top 50 under 50 universities. For the 2015 rankings, both were outside of the age bracket, but the University of Bath (est. 1966) ranked 7th and 6 other UK universities (all established in 1966 or 1967) made the top 50.

The London School of Economics has been seen to consistently perform worse than might be expected (from its position in the national league tables) in global rankings. The school was ranked 11th in the world in 2004 and 2005 within the THE-QS World University Rankings, the School, but dropped to 66th and 67th in the 2008 and 2009 edition. The school administration asserts that the fall was due to a controversial change in methodology which hindered social science institutions. In January 2010, THE concluded that their existing methodology system with Quacquarelli Symonds was flawed in such a way that it was unfairly biased against certain schools, including LSE. As a result of these changes, LSE rose 39 places between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 rankings. Further changes were made to the THE methodology in 2015 (for the 2016 rankings), including moving from Thompson-Reuters to Elsevier's SCOPUS as a date source. In 2015, QS followed THE in recognising that its methodology penalised arts and humanities research compared to life sciences and natural sciences and introducing changes intended to minimise this effect. As a result, LSE and Durham University both rose over 30 places from the 2014 table to the 2015 table, LSE going from 71st to 35th and Durham from 92nd to 61st. The ARWU, which is focused on research and is admitted by its creators to downplay social science and humanities, continues to rank both institutes outside of its top 100.

The UK Golden Triangle Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, KCL, UCL, Imperial and LSE, along with Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Warwick rank in the top 50 of at least one of the leading international league tables and in the top 100 of the majority (for rankings published in 2015). This is in sharp contrast to domestic league tables where (in the 2016 rankings, i.e. those published in 2015) KCL, Edinburgh and Manchester are outside of the top 20 in all three tables, Bristol's highest rank is 15th in the Complete University Guide, and UCL's highest placing is 10th in the Times/Sunday Times table. Similarly, Exeter, Surrey and Lancaster, which make the top 10 in the majority of domestic tables, do not rank highly on international tables, while St Andrews and Durham make the top 5 in most domestic tables but fail to make the top 50 internationally.

UK universities are linked with the world's fastest national computer network run by JANET and funded by JISC.