King’s College London ranked 19th best university in the world.
Students and staff of KCL have been given cause to celebrate recently, following the announcement that King’s will enjoy a privileged status amongst the top 20 universities of the world. Published on September 10th, the QS World University Rankings lists King’s College London as the 19th best institution in the world; an improvement of seven places on the previous year.
This is KCL’s highest placement since the establishment of the QS tables in 2004, a result that Principal Professor of KCL Sir Rick Trainor believes to be “a testament to the quality of our faculty and students, and the reputation of our research and teaching across the globe.”
Assessments carried out by Quacquarelli Symonds saw King’s achieve a score of 90 out of 100 for academic reputation, employer reputation, number of international students and the proportion of international faculty. The university also retained its prestigious ‘five-star’ status, designating it as an institution which is “world class in a broad range of areas, enjoys a high reputation and has cutting edge facilities and an internationally renowned research and teaching faculty”.
All this comes in the face of recent government cuts to higher education, which have seen tuition fees for domestic students rise to £9000 per year. According to Universities Minister David Willetts, “Our reforms to undergraduate finance have put universities on a sustainable financial footing and sharpened incentives to deliver a world-class student experience.”
Yet on a national scale, many of the results in this year’s QS list seem to contradict Mr Willett’s assertions of greater educational quality and financial stability for universities following Coalition reforms. Of the 45 UK universities residing within the QS top 400, 29 are ranked lower than their pre-recession placements during the 2007/8 academic year, and 21 of those have dropped more than 10 places during that time.
Director General of the Russell Group, Wendy Piatt, has pointed out that “public expenditure on higher education in the UK remains far less than the United States, China and other Western European countries”, arguing that “if our universities are to compete in the future, they need the Government to provide light-touch regulation and continued investment, and to be welcoming to genuine international students.”
There are even those within the organisation responsible for producing the rankings who have spoken out in agreement with Dr Piatt. John O’Leary, member of the QS global academic advisory board, has stated: “The UK invests below the [international] average in higher education, so it is unrealistic to expect its universities to continue to punch above their weight indefinitely.”
He goes on to claim: “The current success of leading institutions shows how vital it is that the Government matches the investments being made by other countries in order to maintain their world-class status.”
While by no means diminishing the achievements of the staff and faculty of King’s College in these latest rankings, it must be wondered whether a somewhat worrying pattern is beginning to emerge from within these results.
With only two other UK universities appearing after King’s in the QS top 50, could KCL be becoming part of what some perceive to be an isolated set of elite institutions? Or could it be helping to bridge this apparent gap, with its status as a more accessible university that delivers internationally renowned levels of education and research? Perhaps we’ll have to wait until the publication of next year’s QS World University Rankings to find out.