THE China Subject Ratings 2020: institutional performance

Inaugural ratings based on China’s subject classification reveal strengths and weaknesses of country’s universities

July 16, 2020
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Browse the full results of the China Subject Ratings 2020


Some familiar Chinese institutions can be found in the upper reaches of the new Times Higher Education China Subject Ratings, but their relative performance does not always follow the same pattern as their positioning in the World University Rankings.

Topping the ratings are the three institutions that come in the global top 100 of the main ranking: Tsinghua University, Peking University and the University of Science and Technology of China.

However, while all three score an average rating close to A+, their exact grade point average places them in a slightly different order to the main rankings.

Tsinghua still leads the field, achieving an A+ score in 45 of the 48 subjects where it receives a rating. The magnitude of this achievement can be seen in context by comparing Tsinghua with the top institution in the World University Rankings – the University of Oxford – which only has one subject where it does not achieve an A+.

The next highest-placed Chinese institution in terms of subject rating grade average is the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), with Peking in third. This is due to Peking having a more general research focus including arts, humanities and social science areas, whereas USTC specialises in science fields such as engineering, where China’s universities excel in the ratings when compared with the rest of the world. However, when taking into account the number of subjects offered alongside the grade average, Peking is the stronger overall performer. 

This is a pattern repeated elsewhere in mainland China for the subject ratings, with specialist technological universities tending to perform well overall compared with more broad-based institutions.

Two examples are Harbin Institute of Technology and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), which are placed outside the global top 400 in the World University Rankings. However, in the subject ratings they score close to an A on average, placing them in the top 10 universities in mainland China.

Although Harbin only scores an A+ in five of the 23 subjects where it is rated, a solid performance elsewhere with 14 A grades – including in a number of engineering subjects – and no grade below a B+ gives it a strong average overall.

The University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) is even more specialist, with subject ratings in just 13 subjects all aligned with electronics and computing. However, an A+, A or A- across all the areas except one helps to place it firmly in the top 10 overall for mainland China in terms of grade average.

Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University are two institutions meanwhile whose success in the main rankings is mirrored in the subject ratings: both score A+ for more than half their subjects. In Fudan’s case, there are only two subject areas that do not achieve an A of some kind while Shanghai Jiao Tong has 25 A+ ratings and just six below A-.

It means that, along with Tsinghua, Peking, and USTC, they are among five Chinese institutions whose overall average is above an A. Only 75 other universities in the world achieve this.

Other Chinese universities that are high up in the main World University Rankings are, relative to other institutions in mainland China, a little lower in the subject ratings because of their scores in arts, humanities and social science subjects.

An example is Zhejiang University, the fourth best-placed institution in the main rankings (at =107 in 2020), which manages to score an A+ in 35 of 63 subjects, meaning that it is still one of the best performers.

However, it also has nine subjects where it scores a B or below including two C+ ratings in archaeology and philosophy. Zhejiang is still among nine Chinese institutions that score above an A- overall though, something that it shares with 84 other universities across the globe.

This kind of pattern explains why some specialist science institutions may have a higher average China Subject Rating.

Another subject that tends to pull down the overall grade average of broad-based universities is applied economics. Out of 31 Chinese institutions with a rating in the subject, roughly half score a C+, C or C- in this subject.

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

POSTSCRIPT:

如果您想进一步讨论中国学科评级的结果,欢迎与泰晤士高等教育咨询团队负责人Elizabeth Shepherd联系,致信邮箱:Elizabeth.Shepherd@timeshighereducation.com

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