Hong Kong slips as Singapore and Korea take the lead in Asia ranking

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has been ousted from the top of the QS Asia rankings – the first time in the ranking’s history that a university from the city-state has failed to claim first place.

It falls to fifth place, while the University of Hong Kong also slips from second to third.

The two Hong Kong universities make way for the National University of Singapore, or NUS, which, for the first time, is Asia’s top institution.

Two Korean universities make their mark on the top ten, with KAIST – the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – jumping from sixth to second place and the Seoul National University retaining fourth place.

The QS University Rankings: Asia 2014 were published earlier this month. A total of 491 institutions were evaluated, 474 ranked and 300 published.

They confirm Singapore and Korea have overtaken Japan and Hong Kong as Asia’s academic powerhouses.

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, or NTU, climbs to 7th, its highest ever position, while Korea’s POSTECH (9th) also makes the top 10, but slips two places.

The University of Tokyo, Japan’s leading university, falls one place but manages to hang on to its place in the top ten in tenth place, its lowest ever position.

“Though the drops for Japanese universities this year are small, they continue a trend that is observable over the past three or four years,” QS head of research Ben Sowter says.

“The after-effects of the financial crisis have made it harder for Japan to keep up with the improvements made by Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and China.”

Thirteen of the Chinese top 20 institutions have improved their position this year, after a surge in research citations, but Peking University slips three places to 8th.

“Government investment in scientific research is starting to pay dividends, with the majority of Chinese institutions increasing both the volume and impact of their research in recent years,” Sowter said. “However, in terms of citations Peking and Tsinghua are still playing catch-up with institutions such as National University of Singapore and University of Hong Kong.”

The overall number of Indian universities in the ranking rose to 17 from just 11 last year, but seven of its top eight institutions fell. The Indian Institute of Technology Delhi is the top performer at 38th.

QS analysts point out that the 2014 ranking is the first to be influenced by the restructuring of Hong Kong’s undergraduate programmes from three to four years, which meant that all universities had to enrol a double cohort of students from 2012.

The rankings confirmed the emergence of Singapore and Korea as the region’s new major players, denting the dominance of Hong Kong and Japan, Sowter said.

“Both NUS and KAIST have benefitted from major government investment in research; while operating in English has helped them attain new levels of global engagement.”

NUS and NTU are currently benefitting from a S$16.1 billion (US$12.9 billion) government scheme to improve their performance in science, technology and innovation, while Korea now spends 3.6% of its GDP on research and development, among the highest in the OECD.

Ranking criteria (with weighting in brackets) include: academic reputation (30%), employer reputation (10%), student/faculty ratio (20%), papers per faculty (15%), citations per paper (15%), internationalisation (5%), student exchange inbound (2.5%) and student exchange outbound (2.5%).

The academic reputation survey elicited 8,259 responses from Asian academics and 35,111 responses from international academics who declared knowledge of Asian universities. The employer reputation survey drew 4,658 responses from Asian employers and 3,345 responses from international employers who declared knowledge of Asian universities.