Uncertainty over research funding and government immigration policy have been blamed for a decline in British universities standing within the latest international table, as provided by QS World University Rankings.
The UK's leading university, Cambridge, has fallen out of the top three for the first time since the rankings began 12 years ago, while the majority of the country's other top institutions also fell down the league table.
The survey was undertaken before the UK voted to leave the European Union in June. Although the referendum is believed to have added to the uncertainty in the sector, it's not thought to be the sole contributing factor for the declines.
Of the 48 institutions from the UK placed within the top 400, 38 have dropped down the rankings this year.
According to QS, uncertainty over research funding, immigration rules, and the ability to hire and retain top talent from across the globe seems to be damaging the reputation of the UK's higher education sector.
Those universities in the US which benefit from significant private funding continue to lead the rankings. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and Harvard, all US institutions, were placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively.
London also continues to fare well, with more top 40 institutions than any other city in the world.