The world's most dynamic region in terms of higher education growth deserves its own dedicated rankings, argues Phil Baty
Asia is the most exciting region on Earth in higher education terms.
It is driving an explosion in the ranks of the world's middle class, whose numbers are estimated to grow by 3 billion to an estimated 4.5 billion people by 2030, according to the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford - billions more people with the hunger (and resources) for higher learning.
In India alone, the growth in provision is mind-blowing: on average, about 5,000 new students were admitted and 10 new institutions were set up in India every day over the past five years.
As well as needing to absorb huge numbers of additional learners, many Asian countries are also recognising the central role played by world-class research in driving the knowledge economy - and are spending accordingly.
Contrast this with the West, where austerity is leading to public disinvestment in higher education and research. The 2012-13 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published last October, provide evidence of the beginnings of a power shift to the East: top players in China, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore significantly improved their ranking positions, while some US and UK institutions lost ground or exited the tables altogether.
While Asia's higher education success stories do not slavishly follow a Western script, there is a growing hunger to share experience, systems and talent from West to East and across the globe - which also means a greater appetite for shared data. This is where the THE Asia University Rankings 2013 come in.
The THE World University Rankings are firmly established as the most widely cited and highly regarded global benchmark of university -performance. In shining new light on higher education in a globalised world, this invaluable resource has only increased demand for more information - more data, more detail, more context - as a wider range of users, from governments and university leaders down to would-be-students, turn to the rankings for insight.
Asia has 57 institutions in the overall global top 400, but many more of its universities aspire to join the world's research-intensive elite and want to benchmark their progress. So the Asia-only table goes deeper and gives more data on more of the region's institutions than the overall rankings. It looks at Asia as a continent, so includes Turkey and the Middle East but excludes North Africa and Austral-asia. The methodology used is the same as in the World University Rankings - 13 indicators covering teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
This methodology was determined after almost a year of open consultation and with expert input from an advisory group of more than 50 leading figures from 15 countries. It is established and respected. We see no reason to create a bespoke methodology in this case, because the top 100 Asian universities are all among the research-led elite in their region. They compete on the global stage with the best from the West, and we are delighted to bring you this unprecedented insight into their performance.
Phil Baty is the Times Higher Education Rankings editor.