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The author of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings says the "golden triangle" of Cambridge, Oxford and London is fast becoming Britain's last bastion of world class education and research.
Phil Baty says leading universities in cities such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle are at risk of losing their reputations as being among the best in the world to study for a degree, research suggests.
The latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2013/14 show that overall, the UK is holding its position, with 31 institutions in the top 200, more than any other country except the United States.
But a number of institutions outside Oxbridge and London have dropped down the table.
The rankings rate universities worldwide on 13 measures including teaching, research and their international outlook, which includes the number of overseas students and staff they have.
The UK has three universities in the top 10, with Oxford taking second place alongside Harvard in the US.
Cambridge University was seventh, and Imperial College London took tenth place.
There were seven UK universities in the top 50, and 11 in the top 100, up one from 10 last year.
London had four institutions in the top 40, compared with three last year, more than any other city in the world.
These were Imperial College, which was down two places to 10th; University College London, which fell four places to 21st; London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), up seven places to 32nd; and King's College London, which rose 19 places to 38th.
Other London institutions to rise included Royal Holloway, University of London, up from 119th to 102nd, and Queen Mary, University of London which took 114th spot.
But a number of leading UK institutions fared less well, the rankings show.
Since the 2011/12 tables, Manchester has fallen from 48th to 58th, Bristol has gone from 66th to 79th, Sheffield from 101st to 112th, Aberdeen from 151st to 188th, Reading from 164th to 194th and Newcastle from 146th to 198th.
Since last year, Nottingham has gone from from 120th to 157th, Southampton from 130th to 146th and Warwick from 124th to 141st.
Top of this year's rankings was the California Institute of Technology, which was in first place for the third year running.
The rest of the top 10 was made up of Oxford and Harvard in joint second place, Stanford University in fourth, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, (5), Princeton (6), Cambridge (7), University of California, Berkeley (8), University of Chicago (9), Imperial College London (10).
Phil Baty, editor of the rankings, said: "On the whole, the UK has had a very stable year, with little overall change to its position behind the US as the world's second best higher education nation.
This is good news after stark evidence of decline in last year's rankings.
But there are still concerns for our world-leading 'brand name' institutions: Imperial College London, University College London plus the universities of Manchester and Bristol have all slipped to varying degrees.
Although other institutions have risen, and some significantly, such global brands act as flagships for the rest of the UK, so this is a worry."
Among the institutions outside London to improve their ranking this year were: East Anglia, York, Glasgow, Lancaster, Leeds, Exeter, Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool and Dundee.
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