China extends dominance in latest BRICS ranking by QS

China has strengthened its lead in the QS University Rankings: BRICS, which compares the top 200 institutions in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

China is even more dominant than last year with an additional institution breaking into the top 10, in which they are now represented by seven institutions.

According to QS the result confirms China as the most likely of the BRICS nations to achieve its goal of developing world-class universities.

Another significant change is that the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore has come straight into the top five in the first year in which it has submitted a full set of data.

Twelve Indian institutions jumped by more than 100 positions overall, which Baerbel Eckelmann, who compiled the rankings, said was due to them providing a more complete dataset.

Investing heavily

“The BRICS are big and they matter in terms of population, landmass and economic size,” said Eckelmann.

“They are spread across different continents but united by one common interest: the growth in university education and that’s why they are investing heavily in higher education, research and development as they recognise that creating knowledge and nurturing talents are essential to fuel the growth of their rapidly expanding economies."

The rapidly changing structure of BRICS universities creates an opportunity to build world-class universities through global partnerships and collaboration, she said.

Student enrolment has increased dramatically to the point where more than one in three students in the world today live in a BRICS country. Enhancing quality through, among other initiatives, establishing centres of excellence remains a major challenge.

According to the OECD, however, there are signs of progress in science and innovation. For instance, the share of the US and Japan in total world patents and scientific publications is on the decline, slowly giving way to science and technology production by the BRICS countries.

The QS ranking gives an indication of how well the different BRICS countries are lining up to challenge the traditional research powerhouses.

China claims seven of the top 10 places, up one from last year, ahead of Brazil, Russia and India with one apiece. Russia, with 53 institutions in the top 200, is second only to China with 67.

Yet only seven Russian institutions make the top 50, fewer than China (21), Brazil (10) and India (9).

In the top 10, China took the first three places with Tsinghua University first, followed by Peking University and Fudan University. Lomonosov Moscow State University from Russia came fourth; the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore fifth; followed by three more from China, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the University of Science and Technology of China and Nanjing University. Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo came ninth and China’s Beijing Normal University came tenth.

As revealed in the report, OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2014, only the United States now spends more on research and development, or R&D, than China. In 2012, China spent US$294 billion, compared to the US figure of US$454 billion.

China is on course to be the world’s top spender on R&D by 2019 and is planning to increase its share of gross domestic product spent on research to 2.5% by 2020.

The Russian government has committed RUB10 billion (US$174 million) in grants to the top-performing universities, QS says. The Council on Global Competitiveness Enhancement of Russian Universities has been established to monitor progress.

India has ambitions to establish 14 world-class universities under the ‘brain gain’ policy. The government has committed to set up five new prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology, or IITs, in addition to the existing 18.

South Africa has 5.5% of the BRICS’ top universities despite comprising only 1.7% of the population of the BRICS nations. In addition, eight of these 11 are in the top 100, QS says.

The New Development Bank, or the ‘BRICS bank’, officially opened for business on Tuesday with an initial capital of US$100 billion, marking the beginning of a new era in the relationships among these fast-growing and ambitious economies. The bank is seen as rival to the existing US-led institutions, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and will finance infrastructure projects and ensure the sustainable development of the BRICS countries.

BRICS Network University

As reported in University World News, plans are underway to establish a BRICS Network University, an initiative that will enable universities in the group to jointly develop and teach courses and facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications and the transfer of credits between participating institutions.

Ben Sowter, QS head of research said: “The BRICS have started to collaborate on accelerating the growth of their respective university systems. Since one in three students in the world today live in one of the BRICS countries, the impact will have global effects.”

Neverthless Eckelmann said analysing the rankings results by indicator raised some issues of concern for several of the countries.

“South Africa’s universities are facing a problem in faculty members:student ratio which seems to be a trend over the last three years. It also appears to be linked to the ‘staff with PhD metric’ for which the same trend could be observed,” she said.

Despite their many successes in this year’s ranking, Chinese universities also do “relatively poorly” on the faculty members:student ratio side, with more than half of them losing ground in this indicator, she said.

“For Russia, the matter of concern has to be on the research output indices with all of their evaluated institutions being ranked outside the top 100 for papers per faculty, decreasing in positioning compared to last year.”

Striding ahead

Eckelmann said focusing on the BRICS countries makes sense because they matter in terms of population, landmass and economic size and will raise awareness of universities from these emerging markets and increase their visibility globally.

“BRICS universities are striving to succeed in the international arena as the world takes note of their strides, especially in research and internationalisation,” said Eckelmann.

“The ranking is there to capture this ambition, to also show how good education is in places where institutions do not have a ‘Harvard’ bank account.”