First Class Universities

China’s First Class Universities and the World University Rankings

Five pre-eminent universities improved their standings this year

Chinese universities featured prominently in this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings (WUR), building on gains from previous years. China’s enormous investment in higher education and research is paying dividends, with a number of institutions in the top 400 universities in the world.

The country’s First Class Universities – Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University, Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Nankai University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) – fared particularly well in this year’s rankings.

The annual WUR rankings are based on five areas: teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income, with specific performance indicators for each. Scores in these areas are carefully calibrated and audited to determine the best universities in the world.

Tsinghua University is the highest ranked ranked Chinese university in the 2019 WUR. It jumped eight places – from 30 in 2018 up to 22 in 2019 – and now holds the title of the top university in Asia. Established in 1911, it is a comprehensive university in north west Beijing nestled among historic buildings in the Haidan District and is the country’s top university. It has more than 47,700 registered students and 3,400 faculty – and has continued to excel in a number of the ranking’s performance areas.

Its teaching ranking, which considers the staff-to-student ratio and the proportion of staff who hold a doctorate, among other criteria, is 11th in the world. For research, it was in the top 10 in the world at number six. This ranking is based on the university’s reputation, research income and research productivity. Tsinghua University also ranked 15th globally in terms of its industry income, which is considered a metric for knowledge transfer and an institution’s ability to attract commercial funding.

Zhejiang University leaped more than 70 places in global overall rankings, from 177 in 2018 to 101 in 2019. Founded in 1897, Zhejiang University is the number one university in Hangzhou – the most populous city in East China province and its capital – and ranked fourth in China. This institution is particularly innovation-focused, with a goal of improving people’s lives. In this year’s rankings, it tied for first place in the industry income category, making it the highest ranked Chinese university in this category. In 2017, the institution was issued more than 2,000 invention patents.

The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) is the public university and the top institution in its home province of Shenzhen. It is in the Nanshan District, which is one of the richest districts in China and home to the Shenzhen High-Tech Industrial Park and some of the country’s largest technology companies. The university, which is the top ranked university in the province, promotes entrepreneurship among its staff and students, in an effort to be an engine of economic development in the province and the country.

More than 2,000 kilometres away, Nankai University is ranked 10th in China (tied with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology) and number one in the province of Tianjin. In this year’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings, it is in the top 400 universities in the world.

Founded in 1919, Nankai University has graduated more than 10,000 international students and currently has about 24,500 students. It has three campuses in Tianjin – including its new $100-million Jinnan campus which opened in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) rose from the top 500 in 2018 to a spot in the list of the world’s top 400 universities in 2019. The university improved in each of the Times Higher Education World University Ranking’s performance areas: teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and industry income.

The university, which was formed out of a 2000 merger of Tongji Medical University, the Wuhan Urban Construction Institute and the Wuhan Science and Technology Vocational College, tied with Nankai University for the top 10 position in China. It is also the top university in Wuhan, which is the capital and most populous city in central China. With almost three-quarters of its 7,000-acre campus covered in trees and rolling lawns, it calls itself a “forest-type university”. It has more than 3,000 faculty, about a third of whom are professors.