Times Higher Education reveals 2019 Asia University Rankings
Tsinghua University snags first place from National University of Singapore in this year's regional table. Source: Shutterstock

One of the world’s leading university ranking bodies – Times Higher Education (THE) – recently unveiled the league table for Asia’s top universities in 2019.

This year, Tsinghua University rises to the top, knocking last year’s leading player, National University of Singapore (NUS), down to second place.

THE notes that Tsinghua’s growing influence, echoed in the World, APAC and Emerging Economies rankings, is owed to the institution’s considerable boost in its teaching environment score, on top of improvements in its scores for citation impact and global outlook. It’s the first time a Chinese university has bagged the premier position in THE‘s regional Asia rankings.

In this most recent league table, THE employed the same 13 performance indicators used in other rankings – including teaching, research and industry income – only the criteria were adapted to suit the unique attributes of these Asian institutions.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) comes in third, jumping up two spaces from last year’s joint fifth. This year, HKUST makes its debut as the leading educational player in the special administrative region of China.

Overall, 72 Chinese institutions earned a place in the ranking, up from 63 in 2018, while 16 of the nation’s 26 top 100 universities either maintained last year’s position, climbed up the list or entered for the first time, with the exception of Peking University, which dropped two places due to a decline in score for research and industry income.

The UAE boasts four universities in the ranking, two of which rank among Asia’s top 50 for the first time.

Many of the this year’s newcomers managed to bed themselves in fairly high up the rankings – a testament to the fast-evolving strength of Asia’s higher education sector, THE explains.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) follows HKUST in fourth, remaining strong in last year’s position. While HKU is first in China in the THE world rankings, its placing in this list is lower due to the metric’s different weightings.

THE notes that research productivity, research income and industry income have more impact in the Asia league table, while teaching and research reputation have less, because Asian universities tend to be younger than their Western counterparts, meaning they are typically not as well-known or well-regarded on the global education stage.

With 103 institutions making the ranking – up from 89 in 2018 – Japan is the most represented nation in the region for the second consecutive year. But while its top three universities have either remained steady or improved, many of its lower-ranked representatives are slowly moving down, broadening the gap between the nation’s elite and lower-performing higher education providers.

Both Japan and India have more new entrants among the top 20 newcomers (five) than China (four), while Iran matches China in terms of the highest number of top-placed newcomers .

The University of Malaya climbs eight spaces to land joint 38th, cementing Malaysia’s debut in the top 40. Growth in its scores for teaching environment, citation impact, industry income and international outlook support the school’s impressive rise. Six of the nine Malaysian universities featured in the 2018 and 2019 league tables have improved their overall score.

Gerry Postiglione, Professor in the Faculty of Education at the HKU and an expert in the comparative sociology of Asian higher education, told THE that China’s rising number of “World Class Universities” represents “a potential long-term asset for engaging with the significant diversity of other leading research universities located in countries encompassed by the BRI”.

The Chinese government is supporting 42 universities to achieve “world-class” status, while 64 universities across the BRI route benefit from being included in their own countries’ excellence initiative, Postiglione explains.

“To position itself as a global economic hub by mid-century, the Asian region will need to cement its reputation for excellence,” he says.

“…China has a role here because its investment – as a developing country – in creating world-class universities has paid off in spades.”

THE Asia University Rankings 2019: the top 10

2019 rank 2018 rank Institution Country/region
1 2 Tsinghua University China
2 1 National University of Singapore Singapore
3 =5 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
4 4 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
5 3 Peking University China
6 =5 Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore
7 7 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
8 8 The University of Tokyo Japan
9 9 Seoul National University South Korea
10 13 Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) South Korea

Click here to view the full list of THE‘s Asia University Rankings 2019.

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