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Education

Asia's universities rise in global reputation rankings

Singapore schools make biggest leap, Times Higher Education survey finds

A convocation ceremony at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore in 2017. (Photo by Simon Roughneen)

JAKARTA -- Asia's universities are continuing to rise in prominence relative to established Western counterparts, according to a global survey of over 10,000 academics.

Twenty-one Asian universities made it into a list of the world's top 100 universities by reputation. Of those, six are in mainland China, with five in Japan, three in both Hong Kong and South Korea, two in Singapore, and one each in India and Taiwan. 

The list was compiled by Times Higher Education, the U.K.-based publishers of the World University Rankings, an annual benchmark of tertiary institutions.

Singapore's representatives -- the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University -- both made notable gains, with NUS rising three places to 24th overall and NTU leaping from the 81-90 grouping to the 51-60 decile.  

But in a list dominated by U.S. universities, the best any Asian institution could manage was 13th for the University of Tokyo, which had dropped two places from 2017. The other Asian representatives in the top 20 are Chinese: Peking University and Tsinghua University.

Overall it seems that the reputation of China's universities has plateaued, at least for now, while the perceived prestige of Japan's universities is waning.

Phil Baty, THE's editorial director of global rankings, said that while Peking and Tsinghua featured prominently, "other stars from mainland China have slipped" and that Japan's previously "unassailable" position atop Asia's academic rankings was "under serious threat."

THE said the list was based on 10,162 responses from academics around the world to a survey undertaken between January and March this year. Of the responses, 32% came from the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, which has three universities in the top 100.

As befits a ranking based on reputation, the top of the table is dominated by some of the world's longest-established and most esteemed universities, with household names such as Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge and Oxford making up the top five, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Almost half the total listed were U.S. universities, 44 in all. "U.S. universities remain the most highly regarded in the world by a mile," THE said.

The findings veer somewhat from THE's most recent overall world university rankings, which were published in September 2017. Harvard University might have topped this new reputation listing, but it came in only 6th in THE's overall ranking, with the top two places going to Oxford and Cambridge, British universities that date back to the 12th and 13th centuries.

That bigger world table, an exhaustive subject-by-subject ranking of over 1,000 universities, put three Asian schools among the top 30 for the first time. The highest-listed Asian university was NUS, which was only the fourth-highest ranked Asian institution in the new reputation rankings. 

THE's findings and those of other university profilers suggest that Asian universities are developing strong reputations in fields such as engineering, science and mathematics, with THE ranking NUS as the 7th best place in the world to study engineering.

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