A triple threat of Brexit, tightening budgets and unchecked expansion has seen the rankings of UK universities in an international league table slump for the fourth year in a row.
Nearly three-quarters of the country’s universities slipped down the rankings in the UK’s worst-ever performance in the table compiled by data and research group QS.
Imperial College London climbed one spot to reach eighth, making it the only UK university in the top 20 to improve. Oxford University slipped from fourth to fifth place and University College London fell two places to 10th, while Cambridge University held on to seventh place and the University of Edinburgh the 20th spot.Advertisement
The compilers attributed the falls to poor teaching and declining research impact. Of the UK’s 84 ranked universities, 66 saw their staff to student ratio decline while 59 had a drop in research citations. International student numbers at 51 universities also fell.
One of the great unknowns of the Covid-19 crisis is just how deadly the disease is. Much of the panic dates from the moment, in early March, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a mortality rate of 3.2 per cent – which turned out to be a crude ‘case fatality rate’ dividing the number of deaths by the number of recorded cases, ignoring the large number of cases which are asymptomatic or otherwise go unrecorded.
The Imperial College modelling, which has been so influential on the government, assumed an infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.9 per cent. This was used to compute the infamous prediction that 250,000 Britons would die unless the government abandoned its mitigation strategy and adopted instead a policy of suppressing the virus through lockdown. Imperial later revised its estimate of the IFR down to 0.66 per cent – although the 16 March paper which predicted 250,000 deaths was not updated.
In the past few weeks, a slew of serological studies estimating the prevalence of infection in the general population has become available. This has allowed professor John Ioannidis of Stanford university to work out the IFR in 12 different locations.
The Huffington Post’s political editor, Paul Waugh, praised the fact the experts’ “26-page ‘action plan’ was caveated and cautious throughout, just like the two experts – Whitty and the chief scientific adviser to the government, Sir Patrick Vallance – themselves, and provided a welcome contrast to the overheated rhetoric that often passes for much political debate in parliament”.
Whitty spent much of his childhood in northern Nigeria. His father worked for the British Council but was shot dead in Athens when Whitty was a teenager, in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Whitty still speaks warmly of Nigeria, colleagues say, and those childhood days may have shaped his passion for global health. In 2008, he was awarded $40m (£31m) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for malaria research in Africa.