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US no longer home to world’s top university—check out the UK instead

The U.S. on Wednesday lost its status as the home of the world's top university, with the U.K.'s venerable University of Oxford coming top in the Times Higher Education's table of best colleges.

This was the first time in the 13 years the newspaper has run the rankings that a U.S. university was not top. Almost 1,000 (980) universities from 79 countries were ranked on multiple criteria including quality of teaching, research and international outlook. The results were independently audited by professional services firm PwC.

The University of Oxford knocked 2015's top university, the California Institute of Technology, into second place this year. The U.S.'s Stanford University held in third place, followed by the U.K.'s other historic institution, the University of Cambridge.

Nonetheless, the U.S. still dominated the rankings, housing seven of the world's top 10 universities and around 15 percent of all listed.

Times Higher Education's top 10 for 2016-2017:

  1. University of Oxford, U.K.
  2. California Institute of Technology, U.S.
  3. Stanford University, U.S.
  4. University of Cambridge, U.K.
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.
  6. Harvard University, U.S.
  7. Princeton University, U.S.
  8. Imperial College London, U.K.
  9. ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  10. University of California, Berkeley, U.S. and University of Chicago, U.S.

California Institute of Technology
Danita Delimont | Getty Images
California Institute of Technology

Almost two-thirds of the U.S. universities in the top 200 were public institutions.

"The results suggest that the U.S. public universities have been successfully weathering the storm of funding cuts, following dips in their rankings progress in the last couple of years," Phil Baty, the editor of the rankings, said in a media release.

Four of the top 10 universities were European (Swiss and U.K. specifically), but Baty said the continent was losing ground in tertiary education, while Asia was in ascendance.

"Some European university leaders have already expressed concerns over building collaborations with top U.K. researchers, following the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union in June," he said.

China's Peking University ranked 29th, up from 42nd last year, while the National University of Singapore, Asia's top-ranked university, was 24th, its highest position yet.

Top college for top central bankers?

Central bankers were in focus on Wednesday after both the Bank of Japan and the U.S. Federal Reserve issued policy updates.

With that in mind, it's interesting to note where the heads of the world's major central banks attended college — and their places in the Times Higher Education's table.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen attended Brown University and then Yale University, which were ranked respectively joint 51st and joint 12th in the world this year by Times Higher Education.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda was educated at the 39th-placed University of Tokyo and then studied at top-rated University of Oxford.

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Mark Carney of the Bank of England also attended the University of Oxford, after receiving a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard University, which was ranked sixth this year by Times Higher Education.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi graduated from the Sapienza University of Rome, which ranked outside the top 200, before gaining a doctorate in economics from the fifth-placed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S.

Baty named Italy as one European country where universities were losing ground.

"Europe's success in the ranking cannot be guaranteed in the long-term while more of Asia's leading universities soar to join the world elite," he said.

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