The UK has continued its solid performance in the latest QS World University Rankings 2013, placing four in a top ten dominated by US institutions.

MIT retained its top spot from 2012, ahead of Harvard and Britain’s Cambridge University, UCL, Imperial College, and Oxford University. The top ten was filled out by entrepreneur hotspot Stanford University, Yale, University of Chicago, and Caltech and Princeton in joint tenth place.

The next most highly-rated UK Universities were Edinburgh at number 17, King’s College London at 19, Bristol in 30th place, Manchester in 33rd place, and Glasgow in 51st place.

Despite the rising prominence of Asia, its universities still lag behind the traditional powerhouses in the US and Europe. Using QR’s assessment, the top institutions are the National University of Singapore in 24th place, the University of Hong Kong in 26th place, and the University of Tokyo in 32nd place.

China features surprisingly far down the list, with Peking University in 46th place, Tsinghua University in 48th place, and Fudan way down in 88th place.

Excluding the UK, Europe’s top universities include ETH Zurich in 12th place, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in 19th place, and the Ecole normale supérieure, Paris at number 28.

Despite the dominant showing of the US, its pre-eminence has declined since the financial crisis of 2007, with 64 of its universities in the top 400 ranking lower than they did at that time.  According to QS, the most likely explanation for this is cuts to federal funding.

Asia, meanwhile, is on the up overall, with 70 percent of Asian institutions in the same top 400 having improved their ranking since 2007.

The issue of affordability and intake is an interesting one that QS chose to comment on.

“The decline in affordable publicly funded education and the increasing dominance of private institutions means many students may now risk being priced out of a world-class education,” says QS head of research, Ben Sowter.

The average undergraduate tuition fee for a University in the top 10 was now $34,000 per year (£23,000), double what it had been in 2007, he said.

Now in their tenth edition, it’s important to bear in mind how the rankings are weighted. Measuring 800 universities for 2013, ranked are calculated according to six criteria; academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international students (5%) and international faculty (5%).

Academic citations are drawn from the Scopus database of peer-reviewed papers and web sources.

This is not, then, a simple measurement of innovation, intellectual influence or the creation of new ideas. Because it places a major emphasis on reputation (50%), it will tend to rank established names above newcomers, including those from the developing world.