FIVE Scottish universities have been classed as amongst the best in the world despite some institutions dropping places in a new global ranking.

Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen have all been named in a university league table which ranks the top 200 in the world.

Scotland now has more universities in the world’s top 200 per head of population than almost any other nation.

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The top institution in Scotland is Edinburgh, which came 27th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings after a drop of three places.

Glasgow came second in Scotland after dropping 12 places from 76th to 88th with St Andrews third in Scotland after sliding from 86th to 110th.

The only Scottish university to gain places was Dundee, which rose above Aberdeen for the first time after being ranked 180th. Aberdeen was ranked 188th.

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, welcomed Scotland "strong performance" in the table, which focuses on research excellence.

She said: "With five universities in the world’s top 200 Scotland has one of the very best higher education sector in the world relative to our population.

"The benefits of that level of quality and excellence are felt much more widely than the institutions themselves. It delivers a significant return to Scotland in terms of exports, inward investment and soft power.

“Universities operate in an intensely competitive global arena. To stand still really is to fall behind and Scottish higher education is ambitious to keep excelling on the world stage.”

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Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Minister for Higher Education, also welcomed the figures.

She said: "These figures underline our strength in higher education and the value with which the Scottish approach is held globally. Credit is due to the staff and students at all five universities for their hard work.

“Scotland continues to punch above its weight, having more institutions per head of population in the top 200 than any other country except Luxembourg.

"This continued strong performance is against a backdrop of other European universities suffering in the rankings due to the ascent of Asian institutions."

Overall, Oxford University became the first UK university to top the Times Higher Education World University Rankings in the 13-year history of the table. It knocks the California Institute of Technology into second place.

Alongside Oxford, the University of Cambridge (fourth) and Imperial College London (eighth) also make the top 10. Four UK institutions slipped out of the top 100 including Sheffield, St Andrews, Queen Mary and Exeter.