Asia University Rankings 2016: Strength in depth helps Asian universities rise up the rankings

Policy drives backed by serious funding make Asia an R&D force to be reckoned with

June 20, 2016
Phil Baty, Times Higher Education World University Rankings editor
Phil Baty, editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Browse the full list of the top 200 institutions in this year's rankings

The notion that Asia is “the next higher education superpower” has become so ubiquitous in recent years that it risks becoming something of a cliché.

But the regular repetition of the idea should not detract from the facts and does not diminish the power of the phenomenon.

Take China, which is set to lead the “Asian century” (another cliché). China has just overtaken the US as home to the highest number of researchers in the world.

It now accounts for more than 19 per cent of the world’s research community (up from just over 10 per cent in 2008), compared with 16.7 per cent for the US, according to this year’s Unesco Science Report: Towards 2030, from the United Nations. China is also now responsible for 20.2 per cent of the world’s scientific publications (up from 9.9 per cent in 2008) and the year 2016 is expected to be the tipping point when China surpasses the US as the world’s largest producer of research papers.

Quality seems to be catching up with quantity, too.

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2016, published in May, showed that in terms of academic prestige among scholars across the world, China is the rising star.

Tsinghua University jumped into the world top 20 for the first time (in 18th position), closely followed by Peking University, in 21st place. However, the strongest signal of China’s bright future in the rankings is not the fact that it now has its two flagship Beijing institutions securely among the world elite but that it has growing strength in depth: Shanghai’s Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University both joined the top 100 list for the first time, as did Zhejiang University in nearby Hangzhou.

Of course, Asia’s rise is not restricted to China, giant though it may be. Unesco’s report notes that “over the past five years, the Republic of Korea has become one of the most research-intensive economies in the world” – spending 4.15 per cent of its gross domestic product on research and development in 2013.

Indeed, as Ka-Ho Mok, chair of comparative policy at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, points out, not just China and South Korea but also Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have all implemented powerful policy drives designed to “promote world-class universities”, backed with serious funding.

Earlier this year, India, the world’s largest democracy, announced plans to develop a similar excellence initiative, offering special support to 20 institutions (10 public, 10 private) to help them compete on the world stage.

This 2016 Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings – newly extended to list 200 institutions, benchmarked against the same performance indicators used in the overall World University Rankings – provides a uniquely comprehensive analysis of the power and potential of such initiatives.

The ranking also provides further evidence of the emerging status of Asia as a true higher education superpower.

Phil Baty
Editor, Times Higher Education Rankings
Twitter: @Phil_Baty

Claim a free copy of the full Asia University Rankings 2016 digital supplement

Countries represented in THE Asia University Rankings 2016

Country/region Number of institutions in top 200 Top institution Rank
China 39 Peking University =2
Japan 39 University of Tokyo 7
South Korea 24 Pohang University of Science and Technology 8
Taiwan 24 National Taiwan University 15
India 16 Indian Institute of Science 27
Turkey 11 Koç University 21
Iran 8 Sharif University of Technology =52
Thailand 7 Mahidol University 90
Hong Kong 6 University of Hong Kong 4
Israel 6 Hebrew University of Jerusalem =17
Malaysia 4 Universiti Teknologi Malaysia =70
Saudi Arabia 3 King Abdulaziz University 26
Jordan 2 Jordan University of Science and Technology 181–190
Pakistan 2 Quaid-i-azam University 101–110
Singapore 2 National University of Singapore 1
United Arab Emirates 2 United Arab Emirates University 101–110
Bangladesh 1 University of Dhaka 191–200
Indonesia 1 University of Indonesia 181–190
Lebanon 1 American University of Beirut =84
Macao 1 University of Macau 50
Oman 1 Sultan Qaboos University 131–140
Qatar 1 Qatar University 121–130

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