Jewels in the Crown: the importance and characteristics of the UK’s world-class universities

27 October 2012

A world-class university can be characterised by the critical success factors it exhibits, including:

  • a high concentration or critical mass of talent, both faculty and students
  • sufficient resources to provide an extensive, comprehensive learning environment and a rich environment for advanced research
  • favourable governance allowing and encouraging autonomy, strategic vision, innovation, efficient resource management and flexibility.


World-class universities deliver outputs that are crucial to a nation’s knowledge base and innovative capacity, creating the knowledge and scientific breakthroughs essential to innovation, underpinning long-term economic growth and social well-being.

Policies towards university teaching, research and knowledge exchange should support and concentrate funding significantly on centres of international excellence and allow for greater diversity within the higher education sector. Regulation of universities should be proportionate, and should facilitate the freedom that world-class universities need to compete successfully internationally.

Supporting the nation’s world-class universities and a diverse higher education system will help ensure the UK continues to enjoy the international recognition it rightly deserves for the quality of its educational provision and cutting-edge research. It is only by meeting a broad, diverse range of needs that the UK can hope to maintain its global competitiveness in the face of ever increasing competition. The UK must rise to this challenge, and not lose its hard-won comparative advantage.

Jewels in the Crown: the importance and characteristics of the UK’s world-class universities

This report sets out the key characteristics of world-class universities, explores the environments that make them successful and the benefits that our leading universities bring to the UK.

Download (PDF, 6.4MB)

Related case studies

Reducing blood transfusions to lower patient risk, reduce costs and save lives

More than half a million people in the UK receive a blood transfusion each year and demand is increasing. Our ageing population, and a stringent donor selection process, mean the supply of blood is limited. 40% fewer new donors came forward last year compared with a decade ago. Recognising these challenges, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have shown the benefits of reducing the use of blood transfusions in intensive care and surgery.

Read more >