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6 March 2014, 06:25
Latest international rankings place Cambridge University as the UK's most highly thought-of university.
However new tables show a widening gulf between a ''golden triangle'' of institutions in London, Oxford and Cambridge and the rest of the nation.
The UK has 10 entrants in the Times Higher World Reputation Rankings this year, up one from 2013 , but down from three years ago when there were 12 in the top 100.
Bristol University dropped out this year, while Leeds lost its top 100 place last year and Sheffield dropped out in 2012.
The rankings, which are based on reputation, reveal that the top spots are dominated by an elite group of ''superbrands'' that are recognised worldwide.
In first place was Harvard University, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.
Cambridge was the highest placed UK institution in fourth spot, down from third last year, followed by Oxford in fifth, down one from fourth.
Eight of the UK's 10 top 100 entrants come from the South East ''golden triangle'', the rankings show.
Besides Oxford and Cambridge, these were Imperial College London (up one place to 13th), the London School of Economics (up one to 24th), University College London (down five to 25th) and King's College London (43rd, up from the 61-70 band last year), as well as the London Business School and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which both entered the table in the 91-100 band.
The two other UK universities in the top 100 were Manchester, which was 47th last year, and dropped to the 51-60 band this year, and Edinburgh in 46th place.
Rankings editor Phil Baty said: "The UK has lost three big-name universities from the list of the world's 100 most prestigious institutions since the rankings were first published in 2011. In 2012, the University of Sheffield exited the rankings, in 2013 the University of Leeds followed suit, and this year the University of Bristol misses out.
Given how important global reputation is in attracting top international talent, collaborations and investment, this is cause for concern.
The UK has some of the world's biggest university brands: we must protect them.''
The United States has the most universities in the top 100, at 46, while Germany has six entrants, putting it just behind the UK.
Australia and Japan had five each, and 20 countries had at least one institution in the top 100.