Asia is rising everywhere, including in university rankings
Welcome to the premier club of university rankings. Source: Reuters/Saul Loeb/Pool

US universities are struggling to maintain its dominance in university rankings as schools in countries like China and Canada provide more options to students worldwide, the newly released World University Rankings 2018 by Times Higher Education (THE) show.

While its universities still dominate the list, they now face increasing competition from established institutions like the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge University, as well as those from Asia.

“It’s not doom and gloom, the US still dominates the list, but there are clear warning signs and fairly significant flashing red lights that the US is under threat from increasing competition,” THE rankings editor Phil Baty told the Wall Street Journal.

“Asia is rising. It’s a worrying time for stagnation for the US.”

THE notes this year marks the first time three universities from the continent have broken into the ranking’s top 30 since 2010-11. The National University of Singapore is the highest-ranking from the region, at 22nd place, up from 24th.

Two Chinese universities also rose several places: Peking University to 27th and Tsinghua University to 30th, the first time in the 13-year history of the ranking. Mainland China is also the sixth most-represented country in the top 200, with seven universities in the top 200, an increase of three from last year.

China’s efforts to internationalise, backed by heavy investment by the Chinese Communist Party over recent years, are proving fruitful as the country in 2016 hosted more than 440,000 foreign students, an increase of 35 percent over 2012.

This year’s rankings show China’s improvement is “real and growing”, according to Baty, and is now part of the “global elite” and overtaking prestigious institutions in US, UK and Europe.

But not everyone agrees with the methods the country has taken, in its excessive fixation on publication metrics, to get these results.

Elizabeth Perry, a professor at Harvard and expert on China, said the Chinese were actively “gaming” the system.

“They are hiring an army of postdocs whose responsibility is to produce articles,” Perry said.

“They are changing the nature of a university from an educational institution to basically a factory that is producing what these rankings reward.”

Not all Asian countries are doing as well as China, though. South Korea’s three universities in the top 200 have dropped from their positions, same goes for Taiwan with National Taiwan University, falling three places to 198th.

Japan’s University of Tokyo also fell from 39th to 46th spot, but both Kyoto University and Osaka University managed to rise several places.

Here are the top 20 universities in the rankings:

Rank School
1 University of Oxford
2 University of Cambridge
3 California Institute of Technology (tie)
3 Stanford University (tie)
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6 Harvard University
7 Princeton University
8 Imperial College London
9 University of Chicago
10 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (tie)
10 University of Pennsylvania (tie)
12 Yale University
13 Johns Hopkins University
14 Columbia University
15 University of California, Los Angeles
16 University College London
17 Duke University
18 University of California, Berkeley
19 Cornell University
20 Northwestern University

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