The University of East Anglia’s vice chancellor last night said significant falls in this year’s world rankings by British higher education institutions are a warning to the government.

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A combination of a lack of public funding, “negative vibes” towards international students and academics, and a failure to encourage post-graduate study, was blamed for allowing universities overseas to leapfrog Britain’s.

UEA has dropped out of the top 150 after slipping more than 30 places – from 145th to joint 176th – in the latest Times Higher Education rankings published last night.

Sites across Britain have seen their positions plummet, as those in the Asia-Pacific countries make their mark.

Professor Edward Acton said he believed Britain was still making a very strong impression on the world rankings, with one in seven of the top 200 universities in this country, but he said the drop in position for many should be seen as a warning.

“If we take it for granted that people are always going to think British higher education is up the top there, we are going to be very gravely mistaken,” he said. “We are going to have to work very hard.”

The vice chancellor said he believed the current dip in position for universities including UEA, the University of Bristol, and the University of St Andrews did not yet reflect a drop in quality but the fact that other countries – particularly in the East – were rapidly improving.

But he added: “Eventually, if it gets bad enough, the absolute quality of what we offer will also slip. That would have repercussions beyond university. It would have major social and cultural repercussions.”

Prof Acton joined Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education rankings, in citing three main reasons for the change.

Mr Baty said: “Huge investment in top research universities across Asia is starting to pay off. And while the sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm: falling public investment in teaching and research; hostile visa conditions discouraging the world’s top academics and students from coming here; and serious uncertainty about where our next generation of scholars will come from, with a policy vacuum surrounding postgraduate study.”

Prof Acton has previously spoken out about the government’s plans to include international students as part of a net migration cap.

He said the “negative vibes” towards international students and academics were putting people off studying here and a “near genius” mathematician had already been prevented from joining the UEA.

The California Institute of Technology was once again judged the world’s top university. The University of Oxford is joint second, the University of Cambridge sixth, Imperial College London remains eighth, and the University College London also makes it into the top 20. Britain has seven top-50 universities.

Prof Acton said he was “disappointed” with the UEA’s position but that “some annual fluctuation” was to be expected.

He added: “I think our investment in both the education and the research in the last few years makes me optimistic that our average figure over the years will steadily rise.”

10 comments

  • In his intimate addresses to staff the VC and his small team fail to talk about how to improve education for the students Neverthe less they seem to spend increasing sums on salaries and new buildings What gives Ed You are getting in big bucks from overseas students Hows your salary and your tied cottage?

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    No to tory boy

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Honest John....there were six independent reports into the the leaked emails . None found any evidence of wrong doing or scientific malpractice.

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    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Friday, October 5, 2012

  • Its about time the UEA VC stopped blaming Government for the problems and started to look at how to innovate and move forward. Constantly whining about declining handouts from the taxpayer and how hard done by the poor international students are merely masks the real problem. UEA needs to understand how it can help solve the UKs problems, rather than just talking about them.

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    Smellthecoffee

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • True, but the incompetence shown by UEA did little to help it's credibility.

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    Smellthecoffee

    Friday, October 5, 2012

  • I don't know why the university is even considering the international position when it can't even get the local position right. East Anglia is known as hot-bed of technological innovation in agriculture, renewable energy and automotive industries and there are no degrees offered in these areas let alone leading research, which they go on and on about. If they positioned themselves right for the local situation I'm sure they would attract the international attention they crave. They might at least produce employable graduates! Until they get it right locally they just look like a bunch of children having a tantrum over sweeties. Maybe Dale Vince should be in charge for a while?

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    Elizabeth Adkins

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Mr Acton is forgetting the worldwide exposure of the emails from Prof. Phil Jones, Climatic Research Unit: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !” Hardly going to do wonders for UEA’s reputation being on a website for all to see.

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    Honest John

    Friday, October 5, 2012

  • Just another point on this. It looks like LSE, Edinburgh, York and Durham have all increased their rankings this year, hardly the doom laden message we are being given. Perhaps, Ed, UEA should find out what these universities are doing right, rather than whinging like a spoilt child. One thing that might be a factor is that these universities seem to offer studies more directly relevant to the society whih funds them......

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    Smellthecoffee

    Friday, October 5, 2012

  • Larson, thank you, one can only assume you are highlighting the inadequacies of so-called ‘independent reports’. Scientific malpractice is now being delightfully exposed, having been standard in the scientific field, particularly medical and agro chemical. Closer to home, we have NCC’s own twist on the word ‘independent’, something even those born yesterday can see through.

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    Honest John

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

  • Fish rots from head. University of California world ranking drops. Chancellor Birgeneau ($450,000) Provost Breslauer ($306,000) like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving them their entitled funding. The Cal. ‘charge instate students higher tuition’ skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011 academic years. If they had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over past 10 years fees would still be in reach of middle income students. Breslauer Birgeneau increase disparities in higher education, defeat the promise of equality of opportunity, and create a less-educated work force.

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    Milan Moravec

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

  • Fish rots from the head. This is especially true in the case of the UEA.

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    Disgusted of Norwich South

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

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