Four British universities have made the global top ten according to the latest QS World University Ranking, with tech-focused Imperial College London placing second after the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The prominent position of technical universities in the rankings is believed to be a reflection of the increasing support for technical disciplines by post-recession governments, who see STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) as a motor for innovation and economic growth.
"Imperial has a rare ability to turn outstanding research into discoveries that have a real impact on the world, and to prepare people to go out into that world ready to lead,” Professor Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London commented on the results.
Ben Sowter, QS head of research, said: "In the wake of the recession, both governments and private sector funding sources are placing greater emphasis on high-impact STEM research, much of which takes place in specialist institutions.
"Tech-focused institutions are increasingly the focal point of a global race for innovation. With budgets from public sources increasingly coming under strain, institutions seem more focused than ever on potentially lucrative research in science, technology and medicine."
Imperial College London shared second place with Cambridge University, followed by Oxford University and University College London (UCL) tying for fifth place.
In addition, King’s College London (KCL) and Edinburgh University made the top 20, coming 16th and 17th respectively.
Overall eight UK universities made the top 50, with an additional 11 squeezing into the top 100.
London became the city with the greatest number of universities in the top 100. Apart from Imperial, UCL and KCL, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Queen Mary University of London also reached the top 100.
London thus stayed well ahead of Boston and Hong Kong, which each have three universities in the top 100, followed by New York, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne and Beijing with two each.
The rankings are based on performance in a number of areas, including academic reputation, employer reputation, staff to student ratios, research citations and international students and faculty.
Cambridge was the only British university to make the top 40 for research citations, with three others, UCL, Oxford and Imperial, making it into the top 50.
Graduates from Oxford and Cambridge were rated as the world's most employable, with LSE also making the top five.