OXFORD University has become the first British university ever to top the world rankings chart.

The historic institution edged up one spot on last year’s second place position in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, above Cambridge University and other global powerhouses such as Harvard.

Five-time champion California Institute of Technology was knocked into second place this year in a table which saw three British universities in the top ten alone.

Oxford vice chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said she was "delighted" to come first.

She said: "We are absolutely delighted. It's a real testament to the extraordinary teachers we have here and a sign of how good our academics are.

"It is great to see the university recognised globally.

"I think any university is only as good as the academics and the staff. We have very good people here."

She said that challenges faced by the university included globalisation, securing research funding and the looming impact of Brexit.

She warned: "It is too early to say but 15 per cent of our students are citizens of the EU, 17 per cent of our staff are citizens of the EU and 12 per cent of our funding comes from the EU."

Asked how she plans to celebrate the achievement she answered: "I love champagne."

Editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings Phil Baty said: "It is fantastic news that the University of Oxford has topped the World University Rankings for the first time.

"It is a great result for the UK higher education sector and cements its position as one of the greatest university nations in the world.

"However, the UK will have to watch out for Asia’s continuing ascent.

"Although the notion of Asia as the ‘newest higher education superpower’ has become something of a cliché in recent years, the continent’s rise in the rankings is real and growing."

Across the UK, 88 of the top 91 universities made the top 800 worldwide compared with 78 last year.

The nation is second only to the United States for the number of world-class universities featured in the top 800. In the top 200 the UK has 32 universities.

In the top ten Oxford is joined by high ranking Cambridge University in fourth place and Imperial College London who came eighth.

To compile the table, which has been running for the last thirteen years, each university was assessed on 13 performance indicators grouped into five sections – teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income.

This year’s rankings was subject to an independent audit by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers making this the first global university rankings subject to such scrutiny.