Asia University Rankings 2021: power couples

Do neighbour institutions work closely together to boost their overall standing or do they tend to play to their strengths in a particular discipline?

June 2, 2021
Source: iStock

View the THE Asia University Rankings 2021 results

When one university in a country performs well, it is not unusual to find others from the same region or nation close behind. But do such universities work closely together to boost their overall standing or do they tend to play to their strengths in a particular discipline?

Data from the latest edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and separate figures on research collaboration provide some insights on these questions.

According to universities’ overall scores in different subject areas, pairs of highly ranked institutions from the same country are often closely matched in different disciplinary areas, but there can sometimes be clear water between them, too.

THE Campus resource: Supporting self-directed learning across cultural boundaries

For instance, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has noticeably higher scores than its neighbour, Nanyang Technological University, in clinical disciplines and life sciences, but not so much in engineering and computer science. In Japan, this pattern appears to be reversed, with the University of Tokyo leading in technological disciplines and Kyoto University scoring slightly higher in health-related areas.

Scores and collaboration by discipline

Note: The education discipline is excluded from the Singapore radar chart and the psychology discipline is excluded from the China radar chart because one or more of the institutions do not rank in that subject area. In the bar charts, percentage is co-authored papers between the institutions as a proportion of each university’s total output in the subject area. Time period is 2015-2019. Source: THE World University Rankings; Elsevier/SciVal. 

Click image to view larger version

Further data on research co-authorship between such universities from Elsevier’s Scopus database suggest that such differential performance could also influence collaboration between country neighbours.

For instance, a much greater percentage of Nanyang’s research in health-related disciplines involves working with NUS than the other way around, while in technological disciplines, there is comparatively less collaboration on Nanyang’s side. For Kyoto and Tokyo, the pattern is not quite as distinctive, but there is a clear slant towards collaboration in some physical science subjects for Kyoto.

At China’s top universities, the patterns are less obvious because both Tsinghua University and Peking University similarly excel in most areas. But on collaboration, there does seem to be more reliance on their near neighbour in some disciplines: Peking for engineering and Tsinghua in life sciences, for instance.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles


Featured jobs