Outside the elite Golden Triangle of Oxbridge and London, the relative performance of the UK's research-intensive universities is slipping, analysis of the 2012-13 Times Higher Education World University Rankings shows.
Despite UK institutions on average improving scores across most criteria, a surge in performance elsewhere has seen UK universities in the top 200 slip by an average of 6.7 places.
Meanwhile, the US continues to dominate the rankings. Its universities claimed 76 places in the top 200, although 51 lost ground.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, said the rankings show that its institutions continue to punch above their weight but that the UK cannot afford to take the path of the US, where cuts in state investment have seriously weakened some public universities.
"The UK cannot afford to be outmanoeuvred by other countries that clearly recognise that investment in their leading universities is the key to growth," she said.
Asian universities, especially in the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and China, performed particularly well in the rankings, published on 3 October, rising by an average of almost 12 places.
In the UK, although the University of Oxford rose two places to joint second and Imperial College London and University College London held on to their places at eighth and 17th respectively, several other research-intensive institutions slipped.
Notable among those dropping down the table are the University of Bristol, falling eight places to 74th, and the University of St Andrews, sliding 23 places to 108th. The University of Leeds fell nine places to joint 142nd, and the University of Sheffield slipped nine places to joint 110th. More...