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THE Rankings: Asia gains headway while USA slips

A surprising 60% of US universities have slipped in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings with publicly funded universities suffering the worst losses. Asian institutions meanwhile are gaining ground, now with 24 of the world’s top 200 universities.

Nanyang Technological University in Singapore is one of this year's rising stars of the rankings, jumping an impressive 15 spots to 61st place. Photo: Yew Kwang Lim

"Key East Asian nations have emerged as powerhouses in global higher education and research, while traditional leaders including the UK, Canada and the US, risk losing significant ground"

At the top of the list the USA and the UK remain strong as California Institute of Technology holds on to the top spot for the fourth year running, Harvard University stays in second place; the University of Oxford falls from joint second to third; Stanford University remains fourth and the University of Cambridge gains two places to fifth.

But as a nation the USA suffered an average fall of 5.34 rankings places as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology dropped one place to sixth, Princeton University fell one place to seventh and the University of Chicago was knocked out of the top 10, dropping to 11th.

At the same time two Asian universities now have a spot among the world’s top 25 and six make the top 50, with South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and China’s universities in particular making headway.

 South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and China’s universities in particular are making headway

“What we’re seeing is individual star performers in Asia,” Editor of THE World University Rankings, Phil Baty told The PIE News.

“There is little doubt that key East Asian nations have emerged as powerhouses in global higher education and research, while traditional leaders including the UK, Canada and the US, risk losing significant ground in the global knowledge economy.”

Hong Kong University which climbed six places and Nanyang Techonlogical University which rocketed up 15 places, are the “rising stars” of the rankings owing to their rapid success despite being such young universities. “I think they’ll both be top 50 performers relatively soon,” said Baty.

Asia’s overall success story has resulted in steeper competition for Japan’s Tokyo University– the highest entry of all universities in the region at 23rd.

Baty warns that as funding cuts and restrictions around internationalisation of universities in Japan loom over the country’s unbeatable record is under “serious threat” from consistent risers including The National University of Singapore.

The UK’s overall performance was saved by London as it continues to host the greatest concentration of world-leading universities– four in the top 40 and seven in the top 200– which is more than the overall rankings foothold of some entire countries including China, Japan, Sweden and Korea.

Elsewhere Germany also had a strong year, gaining two additional top 200 universities taking its total to 12, putting it third behind the USA and UK in terms of overall presence.

Publicly funded US universities suffered the worst losses and Canada also had a bad year

Switzerland now has seven top-200 universities and the number one ranked university outside of the USA and UK, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, which moved up one place to 13th.

Australia fared well, gaining a new top 200 entrant, the University of Adelaide at 164th and the majority of its universities moved up the rankings, including the University of Melbourne in 33rd position, up one spot from last year.

Turkey performed exceptionally, hosting four top 200 universities compared to one last year, owing to outstanding scores for research impact.

Like their American neighbours, Canadian institutions had a bad year. The University of Toronto retained its 20th place but all other Canadian top-200 universities have declined, except for a new entrant to the top 200 list, the University of Victoria, which entered in 173rd.

Now in their 11th year, the rankings are more international than ever said Baty.

“Probably the biggest change is the growth of international outlook, the growth of international students; the growing awareness of how important it is to have a diverse body not just for the home students; not just for the international students, but for the whole student experience,” he commented.

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