The University has slipped thirty-seven places to 139th in the world in the annual rankings of universities as the UK struggles to compete internationally in levels of public investment in its higher educational institutions.
The news will come as a major disappointment for the institution that had been hoping to break into the top 100 for the first time. The university had originally been placed 128th in the rankings’ inaugural year before climbing to 102nd in 2011.
Glasgow’s falling position in worldwide standings is in keeping with a general decline in UK university rankings when compared to their international counterparts. Only ten British universities make the top 100, with Edinburgh being the highest ranked of Scottish universities in 32nd place.
The California Institute of Technology tops the list with Oxford following in second. This year’s league tables have revealed increased competition from Asian institutions emerging as a major challenge to the traditionally dominant British-American dynamic.
The reversals come as British universities face steep reductions in public investment as wide ranging cuts begin to bite. Scottish universities and colleges continue to face cuts of around 12%, whereas the UK government has slashed university teaching budgets in England and Wales by a massive 80%.
The university faces problems in attracting investment for areas in research and development, while the trebling of tuition fees has brought difficulties in appealing to overseas students. This has been reflected in the tumble in rankings with Glasgow and other UK universities struggling to remain competitive in international circles.
Glasgow achieved an overall score of 53.0, while in criteria areas such as research and teaching the university scored a mere 40 and 37 respectively. However, high scores of 78 and 69 were attained in the area of citations (which looks at the impact of university research) and in the international composition of students and staff.
The drop in position follows a turbulent year for the university as it has begun implementing plans to make savings of £20 million by 2014. These cuts, marking a reduction in expenditure of around 6.4%, have seen job cuts and the axing of programmes such as Slavonic studies and social work courses, while liberal arts in Dumfries has been scrapped. The Centre for Drugs Misuse Research has also been closed. Other areas such as student support have undergone spending reductions of around 15%. These measures have been undertaken to tackle the university’s budget deficit in time for the 2014-15 academic year.
Such difficulties are exacerbated by the fact that the UK currently spends a mere 1.2% of its GDP on tertiary education according to the OECD, one of the lowest out of all OECD nations. In contrast, Korea’s rate stands at around 2.5% for higher education, well above the average of 1.5%. The Chinese government has also committed to spending an additional 4% of GDP on higher education. These figures, along with similar findings for American spending levels (standing at a huge 3.1% of its GDP), illustrate the key link between the amount of public investment and the quality and standings of universities on a comparative basis.
The Scottish government has sought to allay fears of a continuing decline and maintain the prestige of its institutions by outlining plans in last year’s budget for an extra £135.5 million per year for the countries universities, focussing in areas of teaching and research by 2014-15. It is also hoped that more than £1 billion can be generated through additional investment and international sources. But the effect of such spending remains to be seen as areas of the Scottish and UK public sector continue to feel the squeeze and as competition within the international educational environment becomes greater.