International ranking 2024: Hong Kong home to new number one

Elsewhere, Australia and UK improve, but tightening immigration policies could threaten progress

January 24, 2024
Hong Kong
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View the THE list of the world’s most international universities 2024

Hong Kong is home to the world’s most international university for the sixth year in a row, but the territory’s flagship research institution has lost the crown to its cross-town rival in a shaken-up table this year.

City University of Hong Kong leads the Times Higher Education international ranking for the first time since 2020, knocking the University of Hong Kong down to sixth place.

This is reflective of a mixed performance for Hong Kong overall, with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Hong Kong Polytechnic University each declining by four places, while the Chinese University of Hong Kong rises by four.

But the territory still has more representatives in the top 10 than any other – four – while all five of its ranked institutions now feature in the top 15.

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The international ranking, which includes 203 universities, measures the share of international staff, students and co-authorship at institutions, as well as their international reputations. This last measure is based on THE’s Academic Reputation Survey, which asks leading scholars to name the world’s best universities for teaching and research in their fields (see methodology below).

This year, for the first time, the population of the country has been taken into account when evaluating these measures to avoid penalising universities in large nations – which has slightly hindered Hong Kong but had a greater negative impact on Singapore.

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore drops three places to joint 15th, while the National University of Singapore falls 10 spots to joint 20th.

Meanwhile, larger countries such as Australia and the UK have improved their standings in the list. All seven of Australia’s ranked institutions have moved up the table since last year, and four have risen by more than 10 places, despite Covid-19 diluting the international mix of staff and students. The country now has four institutions in the top 30, compared with just one in 2023. Australia’s improvement has pushed down all three of Canada’s ranked universities.

The key factor for Australia’s rise is an increase in the proportion of reputation votes from international scholars.

The UK’s rise has been more modest than Australia’s, with 10 of its 12 representatives in this year’s and last year’s tables improving or remaining stable, while a further two are ranked for the first time in several years (the universities of Birmingham and St Andrews).

However, recent immigration policy changes could threaten the performance of Australia and the UK in the ranking in future years. In December, the Australian government tightened its international education policy, rescinding the extensions to post-study work rights it announced only 15 months earlier, slashing the age limit for temporary graduate visa applicants and increasing minimum English language requirements.

However, Indians, who attract around one-third of the graduate work visas granted, will be exempt from the restrictions owing to a free-trade agreement.

In the UK, since the beginning of the year, international students have been banned from bringing family members to the country unless they are on postgraduate research courses – a move that a state government official said was leading to Nigerian students opting for Canada over the UK.

In December, the nation also announced a review of post-study work visas, which allow overseas graduates to stay and work for two years after completing a course.

Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, said of the two sets of policy changes, “the UK’s will have the larger impact on incoming student numbers”, but intrinsic demand for the UK was so great that the numbers would “spring back” if the relevant policy restrictions were withdrawn.

If there were to be a fall in the number of international students going to the UK as a result of the policy changes, “the US will benefit first provided that the family members are welcome there”, he predicted.

The US does not feature as prominently as the UK and Australia in the international ranking, but its performance has improved this year. It now has five representatives in the top 50, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 30th place, up from two last year.


The THE list of the world’s most international universities is based on data collected for the THE World University Rankings 2024. It is based on four equally weighted metrics:

  • Proportion of international staff
  • Proportion of international students
  • Proportion of international co-authorship (the share of a university’s total research journal publications between 2016 and 2020 that have at least one international co-author, normalised to account for an institution’s subject mix)
  • Proportion of international reputation (the share of votes from outside the home country that the institution achieved inTHE’s annual Academic Reputation Survey, which asks leading scholars to name the world’s best universities for teaching and research in their fields).

Only institutions that were ranked in the 2024 World University Rankings and received at least 300 votes in the reputation survey were eligible for inclusion. To be included, universities also had to receive at least 150 domestic votes or at least 10 per cent of the available domestic votes. Once universities are ranked in the international list, they are only excluded if they do not meet the vote thresholds for two consecutive years.

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