London, Dec 19: Oxford University has nudged past its traditional rival Cambridge by being named Britain's best research university. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), to be released, is used as a basis for government funding allocation and has had an Oxbridge stronghold over the years.
Oxford University's vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton said he was delighted by the preview of the results. "Research is an intensely competitive activity and we are looking at and responding to worldwide competition in the world of research, the recruitment of leading academics and outstanding students, so there will be no resting on laurels," Hamilton said.
This year, however, some of London's leading universities are posing a strong challenge to Oxbridge domination with University College London (UCL) and London School of Economics (LSE) edging up the scales. In fact, UCL beat Cambridge to take second position. [Cambridge University retains top spot in UK university ranking]
According to an analysis of the study done by 'Research Fortnight', Oxford University is set to take the largest share of allocated university funding, after almost half of the research produced by its 2,400 academic staff was given the top four-star rating by panels of judges and experts in each subject, while the output of University College London's 2,600 staff placed it above Cambridge's 2,100.
"London looks unstoppable. It has over 100,000 square metres of new research facilities coming online shortly, and that's just the start. It could now eclipse Oxbridge," said William Cullerne Bown of the 'Research Fortnight' publication.
Among the major London institutions, Imperial College in London also scored high with 90 per cent of its research activities classed as world-leading or internationally excellent. [US News Global University Rankings 2014]
On the other end of the scale, universities in the north of England took a hammering over the quality of their research, and academics there now face the prospect of being made redundant after several institutions slipped down the rankings used to allocate funding.
"The biggest losers are Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds. The North is taking a hammering. Oxbridge wins. London wins more prominent. Almost everyone else in England loses," Bown added. UK universities minister Greg Clark said: "Britain's outstanding reputation in research is founded on excellence.
A rigorous and unflinching review by fellow experts assures that excellence, this is why the REF is such a crucial driver of quality." The REF measured the quality of research from more than 52,000 academics in 154 universities. [THE World University Rankings 2014]