Citation impact helps China surge ahead in latest Asia rankings

Breakdown of year-on-year performance of different countries shows how Chinese universities are quickly catching up with Japan as Asia’s major higher education powerhouse

February 6, 2018
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Browse the full list of institutions in this year’s rankings

Chinese universities have continued to surge up the latest edition of the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings, thanks to a strong year-on-year improvement in the quality of their research.

According to data underlying the ranking, released on 7 February, the overall average score of the country’s institutions has climbed by more than 2.5 points since last year, with about half this change a result of the increased citation impact of its scholarship.

At the same time, other major research nations in the region have either been unable to match such improvements in research impact or, in the case of South Korea and Taiwan, have slipped back on this measure, which forms almost a third of the overall score.

The overall ranking – which uses the same 13 performance indicators as the main World University Rankings but with slightly different weightings to reflect the priorities of Asian institutions – has again been topped by the National University of Singapore.

China’s Tsinghua University has taken second place, swapping positions with its Beijing rival Peking University, which is third this year. Three institutions from Hong Kong, two from South Korea and one each from Singapore and Japan complete the rest of the top 10.

Overall, China has 63 institutions in the slightly expanded 2018 ranking, up from 54 last year, and a breakdown of its average scores in each metric shows that as well as citation impact, it has also made significant ground on research income and the reputation of its universities.

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Writing in the THE Asia University Rankings supplement, Phil Baty, editorial director for global rankings, says that “two decades of focused investment in excellence” was “paying off” for the country.

“After tens of billions of dollars invested under 1995’s Project 211 and 1998’s Project 985 to create world-class universities in China, yet more vast investment is secured through 2017’s ‘Double First Class’ plan to lift China’s leading institutions even higher,” he adds.

The country is still behind Japan, which has 89 institutions in the 2018 ranking, in terms of representation, but the average score of Japanese universities has remained relatively static with only slight improvements in most areas.

India, the third-most-represented country in the list, with 42 institutions, has also seen its average citation impact scores go up, although not as strongly as China. Improvements in its performance on metrics covering income, research productivity and PhD awards also contributed to its overall score rising.

Other year-on-year country comparisons show contrasting trends. Taiwan and South Korea are both unusual in taking a hit on citation impact but still achieving a solid improvement overall, thanks to the resources being pumped into higher education. Hong Kong, which has five of its six entries in the top 20, improved across almost all areas.  

Meanwhile, in western Asia, Turkey is interesting for managing a positive outcome despite its reputation scores taking a serious knock. And Saudi Arabian universities had a relatively high overall score change driven by a large improvement in research productivity, despite falling back on some other metrics.

Other countries with notable overall score increases are Pakistan, which has seen one of the biggest improvements in average citation impact score since last year, Israel, where research income seems to have been the main driver, and Iran, which has benefited from better research productivity and impact results.

Asia University Rankings 2018 Top 10

Asia ranking 2018 Asia ranking 2017 Position in World University Rankings 2018 Institution Country/region
1 1 =22 National University of Singapore Singapore
2 3 30 Tsinghua University China
3 2 =27 Peking University China
4 5 40 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
=5 6 44 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
=5 4 52 Nanyang Technological University Singapore
7 11 58 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
8 7 46 University of Tokyo Japan
9 9 =74 Seoul National University South Korea
10 8 =95 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) South Korea

Browse the full list of institutions in this year’s rankings

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