THE Asia-Pacific University Rankings 2019: a region alive with possibilities

Asia-Pacific institutions are no longer just catching up, they are challenging the best. Phil Baty writes

February 20, 2019
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Browse the full THE Asia-Pacific University Rankings 2019 results

If elite Anglo-American research universities are feeling that their status at the top of the world rankings is under threat (and they certainly should be), it is universities in the Asia-Pacific region that they will be watching most closely.

In the 2019 edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, mainland China’s Tsinghua University overtook Western superpowers such as New York University, Carnegie Mellon University, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Edinburgh, as it rose eight spots to claim its place as Asia’s new number one university, in 22nd position overall.

Singapore’s flagship National University of Singapore took 23rd place, while the University of Hong Kong moved up four places to 36th, supplanting King’s College London and the University of British Columbia, among others.

There is no doubt that the centre of gravity in global higher education is shifting east. But, of course, power is not shifting equally. As Christopher Tremewan, secretary general of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, writes in this special rankings supplement (pages 49-50), the Asia-Pacific region covers a wide range of geopolitical contexts – with a wide range of national higher education and research funding regimes to match.

Australia, New Zealand and Japan have been powerful global players in higher education and research for decades, but they are coming to terms with the fact that other countries in the region are not just catching up but are threatening to take over.

These challenger territories – notably China and Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea – are developing at a jaw-dropping pace. Singapore and Hong Kong now enjoy a status as thriving global hubs for excellent higher education and research, while South Korea has transformed itself into a knowledge economy and has emerged in recent decades as one of the most knowledge-intensive nations on the planet.

Mainland China’s extraordinary rise in global higher education and research has been well documented, but it passed a highly symbolic milestone in 2018 when its production of research publications (on some measures) overtook that of the US.

It is no wonder that University of Oxford professor of higher education Simon Marginson has described the Asia-Pacific region as “the most dynamic in the higher education world”.

But many other nations in the Asia-Pacific region are replete with great potential yet to be realised.

Increased investment in research in both Malaysia and Thailand is clearly starting to pay off in the form of improved research quality metrics, while it is clear that more resource needs to be invested in universities in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Helping governments and institutions to understand these changes – and more importantly to realise the full potential of the universities in this region, through performance analysis, benchmarking and through the sharing of best practice – is where the THE Asia-Pacific University Rankings come in. This new analysis presents the most in-depth look at the region yet – with 320 institutions from 13 territories evaluated across 13 specific performance metrics.

We are delighted to provide the data and insights to support the sector.

Countries represented in the Asia-Pacific University rankings 2019


Number of institutions

Top institution




The University of Tokyo




Tsinghua University




University of Melbourne




National Taiwan University


South Korea


Seoul National University




Mahidol University




University of Malaya


New Zealand


University of Auckland


Hong Kong


Hong Kong University of Science and Technology




University of Indonesia




University of the Philippines




National University of Singapore




University of Macau


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