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How Oxford University lost its top ranking (it’s not for the reason you may think)

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It’s been quite a week in the senior common rooms of wisteria-clad academia. Oxford and Cambridge have been knocked off their perch in a leading international university ranking for the first time.

When the 2025 QS World University Rankings were released earlier this week, four British universities were placed in the Top 10 – Imperial College London, Oxford, Cambridge, and University College London – with Imperial being the top-ranked British university, second in the world overall, but crucially ahead of Oxford (third) and Cambridge (fifth). It had never happened before, internationally at least.

It shows that times are changing. Of the four UK university rankings published in the past year, Cambridge now tops just one. St Andrews comes top in two, with Imperial – a university known for science and technology – taking a bow on the top step of the podium for the first time.

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