UK universities down in employability rankings amidst Brexit fears

University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Imperial College London are the only UK universities left in the top 20 of the latest edition of the Global University Employability Ranking. This has prompted speculation that Brexit is having a damaging impact on the country’s higher education reputation among the world’s major companies.

Hundreds of recruiters spanning 22 countries took part in the Times Higher Education (THE) survey, which asked them which universities they felt were producing the most employable graduates.

Cambridge University is now the only UK representative in the top 10 of the ranking of 150 institutions, coming in 5th place behind a number of American institutions including California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Columbia University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Clare College and Kings College, Cambridge University. Taken by Keith Taylor.

Although University of Oxford (ranked 15th) and Imperial College London(ranked 17th) still made it into the top 20 this year, Oxford fell by eight places and there was a noticeable fall for a number of the country’s other universities. Only 10 universities remain in the full list, down from 13 four years ago, with University of Nottingham the latest to drop out.

As well as Brexit, this shift has been put down to a number of factors, including: the rise of Asian universities, a traditional weakness in UK institutions’ industry links and the use of English becoming more widespread – all eating away at the UK’s natural competitiveness and global advantage.

Laurent Dupasquier, associate director of French human resources company responsible for designing the survey – Emerging, said that despite the trend towards the decline of UK universities, he was still surprised universities like the University of Oxford had fallen this year and suggested that Brexit may already be exacerbating the country’s relative decline.

“It is obvious that Brexit has huge implications for the higher education system in the UK,” said Mr Dupasquier. “As well as the draw of learning the language, the UK was [in the past] an open and welcoming place to go [for students]. Whether this is still the case has been put into doubt by Brexit.”

Simon Baker, data editor at Times Higher Education added: “UK universities have taken a severe knock in the ranking and questions will be raised about whether the Brexit process is tarnishing the image of its universities in the eyes of global recruiters,”

“However, the UK’s general decline in the ranking has been happening for some time – a product of the rise of Asian universities, a traditional weakness in UK institutions’ industry links and the use of English becoming more widespread – therefore removing the UK’s natural competitive advantage.”

“The odds on the UK turning this situation around in the short-term appear slim and it underscores the need to avoid Brexit leaving the country isolated on the world stage,” added Baker.

Global University Employability Ranking 2017 Top 10

2017 Rank Institution Country Score 2016 Rank Change
1 California Institute of Technology US 681 1 0
2 Harvard University US 643 3 1
3 Columbia University US 615 12 9
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology US 575 2 -2
5 University of Cambridge UK 559 4 -1
6 Boston University US 553 11 5
7 Stanford University US 552 5 -2
8 Technical University of Munich Germany 545 8 0
9 University of Tokyo Japan 544 10 1
10 Yale University US 536 6 -4

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