Engineering, computer science and mathematics are the Achilles’ heel of UK universities, the newest QS World University Ranking has revealed.
Though UK institutions excel in arts and humanities, most of the world’s best performing universities in STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics) subjects are those located in the US. In the engineering and technology disciplines, the UK also faces stronger competition from institutions in Asia and Australia.
Whereas in arts and humanities Oxford University scored the best in the world followed by Cambridge, with a total of 11 British institutions making it into the top 50, in engineering and technology only four institutions made the top 50.
The best performing British university in the engineering and technology field is Cambridge, which ended up as the world number three after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. Imperial College London came in sixth, Oxford was ninth, and the University of Manchester finished in 28th.
In general, science and mathematics-based subjects were among the ten disciplines with the lowest number of UK institutions making it to the top 200.
The worst performing subjects were namely agriculture, chemical engineering, mathematics, electrical engineering, computer science, materials science, pharmacy, chemistry and earth and marine science.
The analysis of the rankings also found that only three out of 50 best-ranked universities for civil engineering were in the UK, less than Hong Kong and Australia.
In total, Asia had 10 of the top 30 institutions in the areas of chemical, civil and electrical engineering and eight for mechanical engineering.
"The UK remains second only to the US, but it now faces far stiffer competition in the STEM disciplines,” said QS head of research Ben Sowter.
"The leading Asian institutions can now be considered serious global players, particularly in the fields of science and technology."
The QS rankings rates universities worldwide in 30 different subject disciplines, taking into account opinions of academics and employers as well as the number of citations of published papers, faculty-student ratio and international orientation.