New Regional Rankings Released – China Leads in Asia Education Trends


China’s universities have made strong progress in two Asia rankings released last week, while Saudi Arabia and Brazil dominate in QS’s Arab Region and Latin America rankings respectively. 

In Times Higher Education’s THE Asia University Rankings 2015, China has overtaken Japan as the continent’s higher education powerhouse. 

And in the QS University Rankings: Asia 2015, China has consolidated its lead position. One in four of Asia’s top 100 universities are Chinese institutions, and of these 25 leading universities, 16 have improved their positions this year.

Phil Baty, editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, said: “The world expects that Asia will be the next global higher education superpower, after Europe and North America. The new data from Times Higher Education demonstrate that many of the continent’s leading universities are already competing on equal terms with the best in the West.”

Top institutions in THE rankings

According to THE, although Japan still boasts the region’s top institution, the University of Tokyo, it has seen the number of universities in the top 100 fall to 19, down from 20 last year and 22 in 2013.

By contrast, mainland China has three new top 100 entrants, taking its total above Japan’s for the first time: with 21 representatives in all, up from 18 last year and 15 in 2013. 

Both Peking University (fourth) and Tsinghua University (fifth) have moved up a place.

Hong Kong University, holding third place overall, leads a strong group from the Chinese Special Administrative Region – all six of Hong Kong’s ranked universities make the top 50. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology climbed from ninth to seventh, while the Chinese University of Hong Kong is 13th. 

Macau entered the THE list for the first time, with the University of Macau placed joint 40th.

South Korea is the third-strongest nation in the rankings with 13 representatives, down from 14 last year. Its leading Seoul National University is sixth, down two places, and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is in eighth. Although Pohang University of Science and Technology dropped out of the top 10 this year, Sungkyunkwan University jumped 11 places to 16th.

Taiwan has 11 universities in the list, down from 13 last year and 17 in 2013. National Taiwan University, its best performer, slipped from 14th to 17th.

India’s strength has also deteriorated slightly this year with nine representatives, down one on 2014. However, the Asian giant has a new number one – the Indian Institute of Science enters the THE’s table in 37th, one place ahead of last year’s leader, Panjab University.

Five Indian institutes of technology led by IIT Roorkee (joint 55th) take the main share of the country’s representation, although they are joined in the top 100 by Aligarh Muslim University (90th) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (96th).

Singapore has only two top 100 players, but both are in the top 10. The National University of Singapore held second place, while Nanyang Technological University moves into the top 10 for the first time at tenth.

Thailand has two representatives in this year’s tables. Its top-ranked institution, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, dropped five places to joint 55th, followed by Mahidol University, which continued a downward trend, falling nine places to joint 91st.

Phil Baty said Chinese universities are “reaping the rewards of serious, sustained investment and internationalisation – a model for other Asian nations to follow”.

Top spots in QS rankings

In the QS University Rankings: Asia 2015, the National University of Singapore retains the overall top spot and Singapore’s Nanyang Techological University climbed from seventh to fourth.

Hong Kong, Singapore’s rival education hub, also had a very strong showing with Hong Kong University placed second, followed by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (fifth), Chinese University of Hong Kong (sixth) and City University of Hong Kong (ninth).

The next best performer in the top 10 was South Korea with KAIST (third), Seoul National University (eighth) and Postech (tenth).

China’s highest-ranked institution, Peking University, climbed one place this year to seventh place. It is closely followed by Tsinghua University, which moved up three places to eleventh. 

Hong Kong and South Korea also retained a strong presence among Asia’s higher education elite, claiming the remaining top 10 positions.

According to Ben Sowter, QS’s head of research, China’s gains in the QS Asia ranking have largely been driven by a surge in citations.

“The majority of the ranked Chinese institutions are increasing their research output, spurred by the impressive and sustained level of public and private investment, second only to the United States,” he said.

“However, the country’s leading universities are still lagging behind in terms of research citation numbers, which reveal the impact of the research they produce.”

By contrast, only nine Indian institutions feature among the top 100, with the Indian Institute of Science (34th), emerging as the country’s leading representative. 

Japan remains the second most represented country in the rankings with 68 institutions, behind China which now boasts 74. Yet 14 of the 19 Japanese universities featured among the top 100, lost ground compared to 2014.

Methodological differences

The THE and QS Asia rankings are not directly comparable, because they use different methodology and the THE Asia ranking includes Middle East universities, whereas QS has released a separate full Arab Region 2015 ranking.

The THE rankings compare universities against all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook – using 13 performance indicators. 

QS used a methodology based on nine performance indicators, and compares leading institutions on factors including global reputation, research production and impact, and internationalisation.

THE Middle East representation

In the THE Asia rankings, the Middle East is well represented. 

Turkey has six universities, up from five last year, and all make the top 50. Middle East Technical University rises 17 places to 12th. 

According to THE, this “stunning progress” is “largely attributable to its outstanding research impact”. Bogazici University has taken 14th position, up from joint 19th, and new entrant Sabanci University almost made the top 20.

Four Israeli universities make the top 100, up from three in 2014. Tel Aviv University came 22nd, despite falling three places: it displaces the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which dropped from 18th to 25th. Meanwhile, Bar-Ilan University re-entered the table at joint 75th, having missed out last year.

Iran has three institutions in this year’s rankings, led by Sharif University of Technology at 43rd. Isfahan University of Technology jumped 24 places to 61st and the Iran University of Science and Technology entered the top 100 in joint 69th, replacing Tehran University of Medical Sciences, which dropped out of the table.

Saudi Arabia has two representatives, with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 71st position and King Saud University one step behind. Both institutions have made gains on 2014.

Lebanon’s sole representative in the list is the American University of Beirut, which falls two places to joint 88th.

QS Arab region ranking

QS did not include Middle East universities in its Asia rankings, instead releasing a separate QS University Rankings: Arab Region 2015, which it describes as its “first full university ranking for the Arab world”. 

It features 100 universities from 15 of the 21 countries – all members of the Arab League – that are eligible for inclusion. Almost 260 institutions were evaluated during the exercise and 194 had enough data to be ranked, as well as being sufficiently broad-based to be included.

No data could be collected on universities in Syria, and the universities of Mosul and Tikrit, in Iraq, were reported to be closed at the time that the ranking was compiled.

Saudi Arabia took three of the top four places and has the largest number of universities in the ranking, at 19, while Egypt has 15, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 13, Lebanon 11, Iraq 10, and Jordan 9. Egypt, Jordan and the UAE each have two universities in the top 10, while Saudi Arabia has three and Lebanon one.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, emerges as the region’s top institution, finishing in the top 20 on six of the nine indicators.

The American University of Beirut is less than a point behind. It is followed by King Saud University and King Abdul Aziz University, both of Saudi Arabia, the latter displacing the American University in Cairo, which slipped to fifth.

According to QS, the ranking reflects the diversity among universities in the Arab region. Nine of the top 20 are classified as ‘extremely large’, some with as many as 200,000 students. Most are fully comprehensive, public institutions, and relatively few have a strong research focus. 

Latin American universities

QS also released its QS University Rankings Latin America 2015 last week. The table is topped by Universidade de São Paulo, with Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) second and last year’s top-placed Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile now third.

Brazil and Chile continue to dominate in this ranking with Mexico, Argentina and Colombia struggling to keep up. Argentina boasts three universities among the top 20 but nearly half of its ranked institutions lost ground this year. 

Mexico’s UNAM regained its leading position nationally followed by Tecnológico de Monterrey, both among the top 10. 

Of the top 10 Colombian universities, half dropped, with Universidad de Los Andes Colombia slipping to seventh position. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (19th) broke into the top 20 while 80% of the Peruvian universities gained ground.

“Universities from Mexico, Argentina and Colombia excel in specific areas, but they still lack the all-round consistency of the top institutions from Brazil and Chile,” Ben Sowter said. “High student-to-faculty ratios are an issue at several major public research institutions throughout the region.”

Twenty countries are represented among the top 300, led by Brazil with 79, ahead of Mexico (47), Colombia (41), Argentina (36), Chile (30) and Peru (16).

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