British universities slip down world rankings as experts blame pressure to admit more disadvantaged students

British universities are slipping down the world rankings, with experts blaming the decline on pressure to admit more disadvantaged students.

Cambridge University, which for many years was ranked the best in the world and for a decade held a place in the top three, has now dropped down to fifth place, according to the QS World University Rankings.

Overall, 51 of the UK’s 76 institutions have slipped down in the rankings since last year. The majority of Russell Group members, which represents 24 of the UK's most selective universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, with 16 dropping down in the rankings.

Professor Alan Smithers, who is head of the centre for education and employment at the University of Buckingham, said that the decline was because “universities are no longer free to take their own decisions and recruit the most talented students which would ensure top positions in league tables”.

He said that instead, universities are forced to comply with “all sorts of requirements in terms of the ethnic mix, the levels of income of the students and whether they come from low income areas”.

Under the current fees system, any English university wishing to charge tuition fees of over around £6,000 must have an access agreement approved by Offa. This sets out what the university intends to do to recruit and retain youngsters who would not normally study for a degree.

Earlier this year, the higher education tsar warned that top universities must make more effort to accept poor students.

QS, which has compiled the global university rankings since 2004, ranks institutions according to six metrics: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty to student ratio, citations per faculty, the international faculty ratio and the international student ratio.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

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