For the first time a British university, Oxford, tops the biggest world rankings table, putting it first among an elite 5% of global higher education institutions.

The University of Oxford is number one in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016/2017, the biggest international league table to date.

It is the only global university performance table to judge world class universities across all of their core missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The top universities rankings use 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.

Indeed, the calculation of the rankings for 2016/2017 has been subject to independent audit by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and for the first time this year, more than half a million books and book chapters have been included in the analysis of 11.9 million research outputs, meaning that arts and humanities research is better represented than ever before in the ranking, which includes institutions from 79 countries

It means that Oxford, renowned as the oldest University in the English speaking world, has knocked five time champion the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) into second place. It is the first time a US institution does not take the top spot.

‘This wonderful news recognises the extraordinary talent and dedication of all who work and study at Oxford. We are delighted with this affirmation of our global success and will be working hard to maintain our position,’ said Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson.

She explained that Oxford’s top ranking reflects its all-round strength in contemporary research and teaching and that it is at the forefront of the full range of academic disciplines, including medical sciences, science and engineering, humanities and social sciences.

She also pointed out that knowledge transfer and the development of new technologies are among its key priorities. University researchers have launched more than 70 companies since 2005, more than any other university in the country, establishing the Oxford region as one of the most innovative in the UK.

However, the North American powerhouse still dominates the list with 148 universities in the top 980 and 63 in the top 200. The rest of the top five is filled by Stanford University in third, the University of Cambridge in fourth, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in fifth.

Elsewhere in the West, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has cemented its position in the top 10, landing at ninth for the second year in a row. Last year the institution became the first non-Anglo-American institution to make the world rankings top 10 for a decade.

Germany has also performed well in the table thanks to its institutions producing highly influential research, with 41 institutions overall, 22 of which make the top 200 and nine of which make the top 100, up from seven. Meanwhile, the Netherlands’ 13 leading research intensive universities have all made the top 200, the first time they have all made this elite group.

But institutions in France, Italy and Spain and many parts of central and eastern Europe are losing ground as Asia continues its ascent; the world university rankings prove that Asia’s improvement in higher education is real and growing.

Overall, 289 Asian universities from 24 countries make the ranking and an elite 19 land in the top 200, up from 15 last year. China’s Peking University joins the top 30 in 29th place, up from 42nd last year, while Tsinghua University joins the top 40 in 35th place, up from joint 47th.

Five of Hong Kong’s six representatives make the top 200, more than any other Asian region while South Korea has also made great strides. And the National University of Singapore (NUS), Asia’s top university, is at 24th, its highest ever rank.