Leading universities in South Korea and China have improved at a faster rate over the past three years than top institutions in other major Asia-Pacific countries, according to Times Higher Education’s latest ranking.
An analysis of countries’ performance in the THE Asia-Pacific University Rankings since 2017 shows that South Korea is the most-improved nation, with its average overall score increasing by 15 per cent during that time. China is second, with a 14 per cent rise in its average overall score.
The research was restricted to universities in the top 100 of the table because lower-ranked institutions receive a banded score.
When counting only universities that feature in the top 100 in all three years the two countries switch places, with South Korea’s improvement rate dropping to 7 per cent and China’s remaining at 14 per cent.
However, in both cases the results show that the two innovation-driven economies are overtaking countries that have historically led on higher education in the region.
South Korea outperforms Australia when it comes to its average overall score in the 2019 edition of the ranking, while China is now above Japan on this measure. Hong Kong still has the highest average overall score of 65.2. All six of its universities feature in the top 100.
South Korea and China also saw the greatest increase in research and development spending as a proportion of gross domestic product between 2011 and 2016, with rises of 13 per cent and 19 per cent respectively, while Japan and Australia both experienced drops in research and development investment.
Youngmi Kim, senior lecturer in Korean studies at the University of Edinburgh, cited growing state and industry support for research and development as one of the reasons why some South Korean institutions have risen in the rankings.
She added that South Korean universities have also “greatly promoted internationalisation, both in terms of providing scholarships for incoming international students and support for outgoing faculty” involved in networks and exchanges.
Sojin Lim, deputy director of the International Institute of Korean Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, said that South Korean scholars have also been under greater pressure to publish in internationally recognised journals.
Financial incentives have resulted in academics spending “more time on quality research” and embedding research results in their teaching, she said.
Overall, 320 universities from 13 territories feature in the THE Asia-Pacific University Rankings 2019. The list is based on the same range of 13 performance indicators used in the overall THE World University Rankings 2019, but the weightings have been adjusted.
Asia-Pacific University Rankings 2019: the top 10
|Asia-Pacific rank 2019||Asia-Pacific rank 2018||Position in World University Rankings 2019||Institution||Country/region||Overall score|
|2||1||23||National University of Singapore||Singapore||81.5|
|3||4||=32||University of Melbourne||Australia||79.9|
|4||=6||41||The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology||Hong Kong||76.9|
|5||5||36||University of Hong Kong||Hong Kong||76.5|
|7||=6||51||Nanyang Technological University, Singapore||Singapore||75.4|
|8||8||49||Australian National University||Australia||73.9|
|9||10||53||Chinese University of Hong Kong||Hong Kong||73.2|
|10||12||42||The University of Tokyo||Japan||71.9|