It is no accident that the official launch of the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2018 is being held in China. The nation is the star of this year’s rankings and is now established as a major force in global higher education, with institutions to rival the best in the US and Europe.
China might not occupy the number one position in these rankings – that honour goes again to the outstanding National University of Singapore – but mainland China, together with its special administrative region of Hong Kong, claims the second, third, fourth and fifth positions. Overall, China and Hong Kong have five of the top 10 institutions in Asia, 12 of the top 20 and 30 of the top 100.
Although Japan has more institutions ranked overall in this top 350+ list – with 89 to China and Hong Kong’s 69 – China’s stars are very much on the rise. More than two decades of focused investment in excellence is paying off. 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.
And the zeal for reform, modernisation and investment in China goes well beyond the traditional elite. China’s Southern University of Science and Technology, host of the 2018 THE Asia Universities Summit and rankings launch, epitomises this zeal. Just seven years old and located in China’s Silicon Valley, “SUSTech” enjoys unprecedented institutional autonomy outside Ministry of Education control, teaches only in English, is committed to international openness, and enjoys substantial investment. The fledgling SUSTech is not yet ranked, but its president, Shiyi Chen, has a vision for it to become “a world-class global research university” that is in no way unrealistic.
But the rankings and our analysis are not just about China. Assessing the higher education prospects of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia, Futao Huang, of the Research Institute for Higher Education at Hiroshima University, observes that “universities in Asia have arguably undergone the most radical changes since the early 2000s compared with institutions in any other continent” and notes that some nations are potentially poised to emulate China’s success. Thailand also comes under close scrutiny in our overall results analysis.
Among the expert commentary, we also hear from Subra Suresh, the incoming president of one of the world’s fastest-rising universities, Nanyang Technological University, who explores Singapore’s extraordinary “transformation from Third World nation to First World one in a generation” – fuelled, says Suresh, by “determined and steady investment in high-quality education since its independence in 1965”.
Overall, some 25 countries/regions feature in this new top 350+ list (up from 24 in last year’s top 300), with excellence in teaching, research, knowledge transfer and internationalisation showcased across the vast expanse of Asia. India has a record 42 ranked institutions (up from 33), Taiwan has 31 and South Korea 27. Turkey, on the western edge of the continent, has 22 institutions.
Times Higher Education is delighted to bring you our most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the world’s most dynamic higher education continent to date.
Editorial director, global rankings