FIVE Scottish universities have been classed as amongst the best in the world despite some institutions dropping places in a new global ranking.

The universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Dundee have all been named in a league table which ranks the top 200 in the world.

Scotland has more universities in the world’s top 200 per head of population than almost any other nation.

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The top institution in Scotland is Edinburgh, which came 27th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the same position as last year.

Glasgow came second in Scotland after rising eight places to 80th with St Andrews third after sliding to 143rd from 110th. The previous year St Andrews was in 86th place.

Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, welcomed Scotland “strong performance” in the table, which focuses on research excellence and teaching quality.

However, Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland and principal of Edinburgh Napier University, said contiued investment from the Scottish Government was vital.

She said: “Higher education is a national asset that competes very successfully around the world because of its quality and brings the benefit of that internationalisation home. It’s an outstanding achievement that delivers for the whole of Scotland.

“However, no-one in Scottish higher education is complacent about our performance. Competition is fierce with other countries snapping at our heels because they have chosen to investment significantly in their university sectors.

“Ongoing support and investment in Scotland is vital to sustaining our excellence, reach and competitive edge; investment that will deliver for Scotland’s skills base and innovation requirements, and draw in even greater export income from around the world.”

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, said he was delighted with the new ranking.

He said: “This underlines the strength and quality of teaching at the university as well as recognising the tremendous student experience that we offer.

“The rankings rise comes as we embark on a £1 billion redevelopment of our main campus - the new facilities will be truly world leading and further confirm Glasgow as a global centre for learning, teaching and research.”

Across the UK, Oxford held on to first place with Cambridge rising from fourth to take second.

It is the first time the two institutions have taken the top two spots in the 13-year history of the rankings.

Out of 31 UK universities to make the top 200, 16 have seen a fall in their position, compared to last year.

Third place went jointly to the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in fifth.

Phil Baty, editorial director of the rankings, said UK higher education was facing “intense political pressure”, but that the data showed the nation still has “many of the very best universities in the world”.

He said: “The data shows UK universities are consistently producing ground-breaking new research which is driving innovation, they are attracting international students and academic talent and are providing a world-class teaching environment.

“They are a huge national asset, and one that the country can ill afford to undermine at a time when its place in the global order is under intense scrutiny.”

The rankings, which include 1,000 universities around the world, rank institutions on 12 measures grouped into the five areas of teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income.