Both Uppsala University and Lund University dropped out of the top 100 in the Times Higher Education's 2014 World Reputation Rankings. Only Karolinska Institutet, just outside of Stockholm, managed to snag a spot among the top hundred, jumping from the 61-70 bracket last year to the 51-60 bracket in 2014.
"We think this is partly due to the success of our research, and partly due to our strategic collaborations with other universities, in particular in the US, Asia, and Europe,” Karolinska Vice Chancellor Anders Hamsten told The Local via email on Thursday.
For Sweden overall, however, the news was not positive. Last year, Lund and Uppsala were both in the ranking's 91-100 bracket but have now been edged out.
"The new data are bad news for Sweden," Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, said in a statement. "After losing ground in last year's rankings, it has now lost two universities from the top 100 – Uppsala and Lund.
The ranking looks at how at how attractive a university is to students and academics, rather than quality of education or research.
"A university’s global visibility and reputation for excellence is a key driver for future success in a global market, helping to attract leading international talent, collaborations and investments," Baty said. "So a declining reputation is a concern."
He added that while reputation is subjective, The Times' ranking was based on the "informed, expert opinion of those in the know".
The Lund University Vice Chancellor told the TT news agency that he questioned the ranking.
"One has to view it a bit critically when there are such leaps," Per Eriksson said. "That much can hardly happy from one year to the next."
Sweden's declining fortunes contrasted dramatically with those of Germany, which now boasts six universities in the top 100. In France, two French institutions fell out of the top 100, leaving the country with just two representatives.
The annual rankings are based on responses from almost 60,000 academics carefully selected by The Times of London newspaper.
The United States dominated the World Reputation Rankings, snagging seven of the top ten spots and 46 of the top 100, with Harvard University maintaining its hold on the number one spot, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Cambridge and Oxford universities in the UK ranked three and four, respectively, with the University of Tokyo landing in 11th place as the top-ranked Asian university.