More institutions and countries than ever are included in this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Twenty-eight nations make the top 200, while a further 42 are featured in the overall 800 list, including many new faces to the rankings – such as the likes of Jordan, Serbia and Nigeria.
A key performer in the newly extended list is Australia. It has eight universities in the top 200, 14 in the 201-400 group and a total of 31 in the top 800. This year’s extended table means that RMIT University, the University of Canberra and the University of Southern Queensland have all entered the list for the first time.
“Australia has done a lot to improve its universities in the past five years in terms of increasing research and trying to attract top researchers from all over the world,” says Jamil Salmi, former coordinator of the World Bank’s tertiary education programme and now a consultant.
But traditionally, the “best of the rest” list is dominated by the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and this year is no exception. China leads the way, with 21 universities in the top 600 and 37 in the top 800.
Seventeen institutions from Brazil make the top 800, led by the University of São Paulo (251-300). The country’s number two is the State University of Campinas, ranked 351-400.
India matches Brazil’s 17 top 800 universities and like its BRIC peer has just two institutions in the top 400 (down from four last year). These are the Indian Institute of Science, in the 251-300 group, and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in the 351-400 cohort.
However, among the BRIC nations, Russia is a standout performer. It may have fewer top 800 institutions (13) than Brazil or India, but more make the higher ranks (eight in the top 600).
After breaking into the top 200 last year, Russia’s number one – Lomonosov Moscow State University – now sits in joint 161st, largely because of increases in industry income and research income per member of staff.
The National University of Singapore is the number one institution in Asia at 26th position – the first time the city-state has claimed the continent’s top spot in the rankings’ 12-year history.
The next highest Asian institutions – China’s Peking University and Japan’s University of Tokyo – taking 42nd and 43rd place respectively.
This year’s tables also include several developing countries for the first time, two from Southeast Asia.
Five Malaysian institutions make the top 800: Universiti Teknologi Malaysia is the country’s number one and sits in the 401-500 band; the other four – Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi MARA – sit in the 601-800 band.
Futao Huang, professor at the Research Institute for Higher Education, part of Hiroshima University in Japan, says that Malaysia has improved its university system in recent years.
“If academics in Malaysia want to be promoted to a higher rank, they must publish articles that are internationally recognised,” he says. “That is one of the most impactful ways to improve the quality of research activities and one’s presence in global ranking systems.”
Wahid bin Omar, vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, says the country’s recently unveiled Higher Education Blueprint 2015-2025, which outlines 10 policy shifts from global engagement to creating a new research ecosystem, has given its universities aspirational goals.
“I know we are not as good as our neighbours Thailand and Singapore, but we know we need to stand out,” he says. “The ranking is part of our benchmarking process.”
He adds that the country’s universities used to be “very centrally controlled”, with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia receiving 75 per cent of its funding from the government. However, the state is now pressurising institutions to find alternative sources of income.
Funding is one of the main challenges facing Indonesia’s higher education sector, too. The country is represented in the rankings for the first time this year, with just one top 800 institution, the University of Indonesia (ranked 601-800).
Its rector, Muhammad Anis, says the institution receives a third of its budget from government but is increasing its collaborations with industry in the fields of engineering and computer science to secure more money and improve the quality of its research.
Despite the struggles facing these countries, Gerard Postiglione, director of the Wah Ching Centre of Research on Education in China at the University of Hong Kong, says he is encouraged by the progress their institutions have made.
“These countries have been investing more money into their higher education systems, and they see no reason why they cannot have a world-class university,” he says.
“They believe they have everything other countries in Asia had when they were developing, particularly South Korea and China. They see themselves taking on a lot of the manufacturing that was in China. They also are very much state-driven.” (Times Higher Education)