The data show that power is moving eastwards, says Phil Baty, and the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2014 map this shifting R&D environment.
By Western standards, the scale and speed of Asia’s development in higher education and research is staggering. Although the US remains the world’s largest investor in research and development ($429 billion (£255 billion) in 2011), its share of global spending is falling while that of the powerful Asian economies is rising.
Between 2001 and 2011, the US’ share fell from 37 to 30 per cent, the European Union’s dropped from 26 to 22 per cent, and Asia’s (including China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) increased from 25 to 34 per cent, according to the US National Science Foundation.
This is a shift in global power that the US has been quick to note. The NSF’s 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators paint a frightening picture from the American perspective, using a palette of often jaw-dropping numbers.
On China, it reports: “The pace of growth over the past 10 years in China’s overall R&D remains exceptionally high at about 18 per cent annually…propelling it to 14.5 per cent of the global total in 2011, up from 2.2 per cent in 2000.”
China’s figures speak for themselves: the country’s share of refereed journal articles almost quadrupled from 3 to 11 per cent of the world total between 2001 and 2011; the number of first university degrees it conferred grew from 500,000 a year to 2.6 million (against the US’ 1.7 million) over the same period; and in 2010, it accounted for almost a quarter of the world’s 5.5 million science and engineering degrees (against the EU’s 17 per cent and the US’ 10 per cent).
Such extraordinary developments are not just restricted to China. Ashok Thakur, India’s higher education secretary, describes how the country is poised to have the world’s largest higher education system, even bigger than China’s, after staggering growth in enrolments that currently sit at 27 million. And Sakarindr Bhumiratana, president of King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, explains how universities are at the heart of Thailand’s strategy to boost its economy and escape the “middle-income trap”.
Right across the continent, Asian nations are pumping resources into their universities to meet exploding demand for education and to deliver economic growth.
This is why the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings were created.
The overall THE World University Rankings are firmly established as the most highly regarded global benchmark of university performance – trusted by governments, university leaders and academics, as well as by students and their families all over the world.
In recent years the global tables have shown Asia’s rise, but they don’t capture the full scale of its ambitions and progress. Such is the historical dominance of Western higher education that the World University Rankings 2013-2014 feature only 20 Asian institutions in the top 200 (the top 400 includes 61).
Many more leading institutions in the region aspire to reach the top and are making rapid progress. And this top 100, which covers Asia as a continent (so it includes Turkey and the Middle East, but excludes North Africa and Australasia), paints a richer, deeper picture.
The Asia table uses the same tried and trusted methodology as the overarching rankings – 13 separate performance indicators covering the full range of the university’s key missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. But it also makes public fresh data on a wider range and more diverse mix of top performers.
The THE Asia University Rankings 2014 are a key part of our mission to provide as rich and as comprehensive a picture of global higher education as possible.
Phil Baty is editor, Times Higher Education Rankings.