Blues for Oxford; Redbrick Colleges a Growing Threat to the Traditional University Elite

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Byline: KATE HURRY

THEY have been the educational elite for more than 700 years.

Now Oxford and Cambridge are in danger of losing their status as the country's top universities.

The pair are being challenged by the increasing excellence of far younger educational institutions, particularly redbrick London colleges, which in the past have been regarded as inferior.

The shifting in the traditional hierarchy was revealed in a Financial Times survey published yesterday.

For the second year running, London's Imperial College claimed second place, pushing Oxford into third and closing in on Cambridge.

Cambridge scored 74.23 out of 100 in the FT table, with Imperial scoring 70.11 and Oxford 68.42.

Four other London colleges were in the top ten the London School of Economics, University College, the School of Oriental and African Studies and King's College together with Bristol, Warwick and York. Just outside the top ten, but outscoring Oxbridge in some areas, were Bath, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Essex and St Andrews.

It is the first time the School of Oriental and African Studies, founded 83 years ago, has made the top ten.

Imperial, which specialises in science and technology, was founded in 1907.

It recently merged with two medical schools and now has the largest income of any university in the country, with [pounds sterling]310million compared with Cambridge's [pounds sterling]293million and Oxford's [pounds sterling]305million.

The college also claims the largest working estate and highest research income at [pounds sterling]117.1million.

This may be enough to push it into the top slot next year.

Sir Ronald Oxburgh, rector of Imperial College, said: 'We will sail away from Oxford.' The capital's 'cool Britannia' image and the restructuring of medical teaching are helping to attract the top scholars throughout Britain. …