The Times recently published their 2016 rankings of the 100 best universities in the world, as well as the top 200 in Europe. It was great news for Britain in the second of these categories, occupying 46 places in the top 200, which are all marked on key factors such as teaching, research, influence and outlook for the future. In close pursuit was Germany, with 36 of those top 200.

However, it was little surprise to see that the global list saw a surge up the rankings for Asian institutions. They took 17 spots in the top 100, compared to just 10 last year.

Meanwhile, the UK count on the global list fell from 12 to 10, with the two famous bastions of our university education system, Cambridge and Oxford, slipping down from 2nd and 3rd respectively in last year’s list to 4th and 5th this year. The US continues to lead the charge, making up around half of the top 100.

Focus on funding

The Times’ new list came out in the same week as it was announced university funding in the UK would be reduced overall – although a number of small and specialist institutions are set to benefit.

It certainly gives rise to the claim that the government should be increasing funding, not reducing it, to sustain our rich education heritage. That said, there is little doubt the appeal of the British higher education system to many international students remains strong.

There’s another debate we should put under the spotlight here – not the institutional funding (although set to be reduced, the change will be marginal) but the student funding. With tuition fees exploding in recent times, and the wealth gap between generations only growing, students are finding it harder than ever to pay their way through university in the UK.

Finding a solution

Sadly, some students are resorting to high-cost overdrafts, credit cards and payday loans to make ends meet. And this is precisely why we are keen for the government, and indeed the universities, to make financial education for students a real priority. Many are simply unaware of the full range of financing options available to them, such as a Future Finance loan. This lack of awareness can lead to a downward spiral of debt that can hugely impact a student’s wellbeing and force them to leave their course.

Looking for help?

If you’re struggling with debt and would benefit from some impartial advice, you can contact one of the UK’s free debt advice services including:

Step Change Debt Charity, National Debt Line and Citizens Advice Bureau.