Asia Falters as US and UK Dominate Revamped THE University Rankings


The 2015-2016 Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings were unveiled live from the University of Melbourne, Australia on Thursday. This year’s rankings were the largest to date with 800 universities ranked, doubling the number from previous years. The 2015-2016 rankings included institutions from 70 different countries and demonstrated a growing global competitiveness between institutions of higher education.

This year’s top ranking university was the California Institute of Technology (1st), followed by the University of Oxford (2nd), Stanford University (3rd), University of Cambridge, (4th) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, (5th). Once again the UK and US dominated the top 20 with ETH Zurich (9th) and the University of Toronto (19th) being the only institutions from outside the UK-US block to make the Top 20.

Asia had five universities in the top 50 and 14 in the top 200, with Singapore’s National University of Singapore (NUS) leading the way. However, the figures for Asian universities are down from the previous two years – in 2014, there were 24 Asian universities in the top 200 and in 2013, there were 20 Asian universities in the Top 200, indicating the increased competiveness of these rankings. NUS holds Asia’s number one spot (26th) while China’s two leading universities (Peking and Tsinghua) are firmly established in the world’s elite Top 50 group at 42nd and joint 47th respectively.

Japan has two institutions in the Top 200, University of Tokyo (43rd) and Kyoto University (joint 88th), while South Korea has four institutions in the Top 200: Seoul National University (85th), Pohang University of Science and Technology (116th), the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (148th) and Sungkyunkwan University (153rd). Hong Kong has three institutions in the Top 200: the University of Hong Kong (joint 44th), the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (59th) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (joint 138th).

India has 17 institutions in the top 800 list, with two in the Top 400 list, which are the Indian Institute of Science in the 251-300 group and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (351-400).

Phil Baty, the editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings explained the performance of Asian Universities: “It is a mixed picture for Asia. China’s two leading universities, Peking and Tsinghua, are firmly established within the world’s elite Top 50 group. Singapore is another strong performer – it now boasts Asia’s number one university, the National University of Singapore in 26th place, and its compatriot, Nanyang Technological University, sits in its highest ever place, 55th.

“But tough times for Japan and disappointment for South Korea mean that leading Asian nations’ grip on the higher ranks of the THE World University Rankings is loose. Many leading institutions, particularly in East Asia, have been focusing heavily on attaining world class status, backed with funding and powerful political will. But this rankings demonstrates how difficult a task this is, as universities right across the world continue to improve.”

These results indicate a gradual evening of the international academic landscape with the entire list of 800 institutions now including 70 different countries. And while the number of Asian universities in the Top 200 has dropped since last year, a number of regional universities have made significant headway, including institutions from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, India and Thailand.

The newly expanded World University Rankings list has also enabled seven universities from Thailand to be represented in the Top 800 for the first time, with Mahidol University being Thailand’s top performing university.

RANK 2015–16 Thai Institutions
501-600 Mahidol University
601-800 Chiang Mai University
601-800 Chulalongkorn University
601-800 Khon Kaen University
601-800 King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi
601-800 Prince of Songkla University
601-800 Suranaree University of Technology

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings judge universities by assessing their performance in five categories; Teaching, Research, Citations (research influence), Industry Income and International Outlook. If universities from Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations intend to compete more competitively with East Asia, Europe and America they will need to further improve academic standards and increase their commitment to research.

Following the recent publication of the 2015 QS World University Rankings in which Singaporean universities performed particularly well, Suphat Champatong, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Higher Education Commission, explained that Thai universities were suffering from a shortage of highly qualified lecturers and insufficient commitment to publishing academic research papers in English.

“If Thai universities want to feature in the world’s top rankings, they need to publish more research papers in English and also produce more lecturers with academic ranks,” he said.

Europe and North America’s continued dominance of these university rankings explains the increasing demand from Asian students for a Western education. The UK, the US and Australia remain the most popular destination for affluent high school graduates searching for a world-class university education.

In recent years the number of Asian students studying abroad has increased dramatically with over 200,000 international students from Asia studying in the UK and over 500,000 students from Asia studying in the US. This trend looks set to continue until a greater number of higher education institutions from Asia can competitively challenge Western universities.

The TOP 50


Rank 2015-16 Institution         Country

1. California Institute of Technology – US

2. University of Oxford – UK

3. Stanford University – US                                                                                                         

4. University of Cambridge – UK                                                                                                  

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – US                                                                             

6. Harvard University – US                                                                                                           

7. Princeton University – US                                                                                                  

8. Imperial College London – UK                                                                                              

9. ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – Zurich, Switzerland                              

10. University of Chicago – US                                                                                                     

11. Johns Hopkins University – US                                                                                             

12. Yale University – US                                                                                                   

13. University of California, Berkeley – US                                                                                 

14. University College London – UK                                                                                           

15. Columbia University – US                                                                                                       

16. University of California, Los Angeles – US                                                                                

17. University of Pennsylvania – US                                                                                         

18. Cornell University – US                                                                                                        

19. University of Toronto – Canada                                                                                            

20. Duke University – US                                                                                                            

21. University of Michigan – US                                                                                                   

22. Carnegie Mellon University – US                                                                                            

23. London School of Economics and Political Science – UK                                                       

24. University of Edinburgh – UK                                                                                           

25. Northwestern University – US                                                                                         

26. National University of Singapore – Singapore                                                                          

27. King’s College London – UK                                                                                                   

28. Karolinska Institute – Sweden                                                                                                 

29. LMU Munich – Germany                                                                                                       

30. New York University – US                                                                                                    

31. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne – Switzerland                                                         

32. University of Washington – US                                                                                             

33. University of Melbourne – Australia                                                                                         

34. University of British Columbia – Canada                                                                                  

35. KU Leuven – Belgium                                                                                                         

36. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – US                                                                  

37. Heidelberg University – Germany                                                                                             

38. McGill University – Canada                                                                                            

39. University of california, San Diego – US                                                                        

40. University of California, Santa Barbara – US                                                                 

41. Georgia Institute of Technology – US                                                                         

42. Peking University – China                                                                                            

43. University of Tokyo- Japan                                                                                           

44. University of California, Davis – US                                                                          

45. University of Hong Kong – Hong Kong                                                                                

46. University of Texas at Austin – US                                                                                 

47. Tsinghua University – China                                                                                          

48. Wageningen University and Research Center – Netherlands                                                    

49. Humboldt University of Berlin – Germany                                                                          

50. University of Wisconsin- Madison – US                                                                        

This article first appeared on Asian Correspondent.

Image via Shutterstock.

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