Elite universities in Britain have tumbled down an international league table in the wake of warnings that the higher education system in the country risks descending into "global mediocrity".
The new list published by Times Higher Education magazine showed that Oxford was named as the joint second best university in the world behind the California Institute of Technology in the US, which was top for the second year running.
Cambridge was seventh, down one, and Imperial College London retained eighth position, the Telegraph reports.
The paper quoted Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher rankings, as saying that 'outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England's world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity.'
"England faces a perfect storm: falling public investment in teaching and research; hostile visa conditions discouraging the world's top academics and students from coming here; and serious uncertainty about where our next generation of scholars will come from, with a policy vacuum surrounding postgraduate study," Baty said.
According to the paper, experts warned that the standing of British universities had suffered in the face of fierce competition from other nations, particularly in the Far East.
It was claimed that British universities were being hit by funding cuts and tight visa controls that were driving bright foreign students and top academics towards other countries.
The annual tables rank universities based on performance in 13 areas including assessment of teaching quality, research, worldwide influence and international outlook.