Imperial beats Oxbridge institutions in global university rankings

Imperial College London has been placed higher than the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in global rankings.

The QS Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings have seen Imperial rise from sixth to second place, ending years of Oxbridge dominance at the top of the international league table.

Cambridge fell from second to fifth place while Oxford remains in third place in the global rankings for 2025.

Only Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US – which secured the top spot in the rankings again – outperformed Imperial College London.

Four British universities made it to the top 10 in the rankings, with University College London (UCL) retaining ninth position.

It is the first time that neither Oxford nor Cambridge has taken the top spot among the UK universities since the global rankings began 20 years ago.

In 2014, both Imperial and Cambridge came in joint second place, but this year Imperial stands alone in that position for the first time.

The QS said Imperial’s improved position in the table is due to its research performance, employability scores, and sustainability commitment.

This year, of the 90 British universities ranked by QS, 20 improved their position since last year.

But nearly three in five (58%) – a total of 52 universities – have seen their positions drop in the new table, while 18 institutions have remained stable.

British higher education is struggling in the face of funding shortages and restrictions and “ambiguity” facing the status of international students, according to QS.

Chief executive Jessica Turner said: “In the decade since Imperial College London was last crowned the United Kingdom’s leading university, the country’s sector has relentlessly continued to achieve world-leading performances despite the turbulence the country has faced, producing world-leading research and remaining one of the globe’s premier study destinations.

“However, this year’s results suggest that British higher education has limited capacity remaining to continue excelling in the face of funding shortages, drops in student applications, and ambiguity about the status of international students.

“Whatever the result of July’s election, the next government must make a properly resourced, continually championed higher education sector an urgent priority. It is one of the UK’s great assets and achievements and must be maintained accordingly.”

Professor Hugh Brady, president of Imperial College London, said: “Imperial’s ranking is a testament to the quality and commitment of our entire community.

“It is inspiring to see our students, staff, and partners come together every day to interrogate the forces that shape our world and address the challenges facing humanity and our planet.”