Oxford’s reputation catches up with Cambridge for first time

"Slow burner" improvement to reputation follows first female Vice Chancellor

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Oxford University students in academic dress. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Oxford University’s public reputation has equalled that of Cambridge University for the first time, according to the latest edition of the Times Higher Education (THE) World Reputation Rankings.

Since the creation of the rankings seven years ago, Cambridge has always surpassed Oxford, but this year’s rankings places the two institutions in joint fourth place.

The improvement in reputation comes after the appointment of Louise Richardson as the University’s first female Vice Chancellor, with the editorial director at THE, Phil Baty, describing the move as “symbolic”.

“This was a historical moment—these big symbolic things can make a difference for being front of people’s minds and being noticed,” he said. “Having a woman at the helm means there is a sense of change, momentum and difference”.

Louise Richardson took up her post as Vice Chancellor in January 2016, replacing Andrew Hamilton, but Baty described the effect of her appointment on the University’s reputation as a “slow burner.”

Other factors may have contributed to the improvement in Oxford’s reputation, with suggestions that Oxford’s first place in the THE world university rankings and receipt of a series of prestigious research grants may have improved its reputation.

The top three places were occupied by Harvard, MIT, and Stanford University for the second year running. Besides Oxford and Cambridge, only UCL, Imperial College, and the LSE appeared in the top 20 of the rankings.

The rankings were compiled following a three month survey of over 10,000 academics from 137 countries.

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