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London overtaking Oxbridge domination

London universities are breaking up the traditional dominance of Oxford and Cambridge, according to official figures on research excellence.

The London School of Economics has the highest proportion of "world-leading" research among UK universities.

In rankings based on research grades, University College London has overtaken Cambridge for the first time.

The research ratings will determine the allocation of £2bn public funding for universities each year.

The findings are based on a massive funding-council project evaluating the quality of research at universities across the UK, with the last similar exercise having been published in 2008.

The Research Excellence Framework measured the quality of research from more than 52,000 academics in 154 universities.

It revealed the rise of London institutions, catching up and overtaking Oxford and Cambridge and the decline of big universities in the north of England.

'Taking a hammering'

William Cullerne Bown, of Research Fortnight, which analyses research and funding, said "London looks unstoppable" and universities in the capital "could now eclipse Oxbridge".

He said this process would be further accelerated by major plans for expansion at University College London (UCL) and Imperial College.

"The biggest losers are Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds. The North is taking a hammering,"

"The government is indeed rebalancing the economy - but towards London instead of away from it.

"Outside the elite in the South East, almost all the other leading universities in England now face relentless decline."

The growing concentration of higher education resources and excellence in London follows a wider trend in education, which has seen schools in the capital outstripping the rest of England.

International rankings have also shown UCL and Imperial matching or overtaking the traditional Oxbridge duopoly.

The figures from the higher education funding councils for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show that 30% of the research submitted was "world leading" and 46% was "internationally excellent".