Japan and South Korea decline, China still rising

China’s relentless move upwards in the QS World University Rankings is increasingly divergent from its historic competitors.

In total, QS ranked 308 Asian universities in this year’s ranking from 19 locations, which revealed:

• 77 have improved their position over the last year.
• 83 have remained neutral within their position or band.
• 107 have declined in rank.
• 41 are new participants in the exercise.

But of the 77 Asian universities to improve their rank over the past year, 32 are in mainland China. Between them, South Korea and Japan have 44 of Asian’s 107 declining universities.

It is not all good news for mainland China, however, as its success in citations should be seen in the context of declining performance in other indicators.

The main reason for the continued rise of mainland China’s universities is improvement in QS’s measure of research impact, Citations per Faculty. In this indicator, 37 Chinese universities have improved their performance over the last year, while only 13 have recorded drops for Citations per Faculty.

Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, said: “Now, due to concerted government investment and strong institutional strategising, China’s universities enjoy outstanding global recognition and world-leading research productivity – only three universities across the world published more academic papers in the last five years than Shanghai Jiao Tong University, for example.”

This systemic improvement in research performance is sufficient to counterbalance consistent drops in both of QS’s reputational indicators: 35 of 58 Chinese universities record lower year-on-year performance for Employer Reputation, while 33 of 58 record a lower score for Academic Reputation.

Peking University achieves mainland China’s best score in both reputational indicators: 99.4/100 for Academic Reputation and 98.2/100 for Employer Reputation.

Mainland China’s universities have also recorded consistent drops in teaching capacity, relative to global competitors. Of its 58 ranked institutions, 36 see their performance in Faculty:Student Ratio fall, with only 15 improvements.

Singapore leads Asia’s top 10

The top 10 Asian universities are National University of Singapore (11th); Nanyang Technical University, Singapore (12th); Tsinghua University, China (17th), Peking University, China (18th); University of Hong Kong (22nd); The University of Tokyo, Japan (joint 23rd); Fudan University, China (31st); Kyoto University, Japan (33rd); The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (34th) and Seoul National University, South Korea (36th).

Nearly half of Japan’s ranked universities decline in rank, relative to last year’s position. Despite these drops, the University of Tokyo rises one place to joint 23rd globally, and sixth in Asia. Only once in the last 10 years (2020, 22nd) has it placed higher.

The South Korean higher education sector has endured consistent ranking drops. In total, QS rank 39 South Korean universities in the published table – 10 more than in last year’s edition, 20 of which have declined in rank over the last year. Only six have improved their position.

Jack Moran, QS spokesperson, said: “It has been some time since Japan recorded systemic improvements; India is enjoying some sporadic progress but not at a rate or consistency commensurate with its ambitions or requirements; Singapore remains outstanding but its excellence is confined to three institutions only.

“If current trends continue, mainland China has every likelihood of establishing itself as regional hegemon.”

The overall results for Hong Kong’s higher education sector are mixed: of its seven featured universities, four have fallen in rank over the last year, while only two have improved.

Three Indian universities achieved a place among the global top 200. The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay retains its status as Indian number one for the fourth consecutive year. It ranks joint 177th, having fallen five places over the last year. Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) has become India’s second-best university, having risen from 193rd to 185th over the past 12 months, overtaking Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, which ranks joint 186th.

There are also record-breaking performances for three of India’s Institutes of Technology: IIT Kharagpur (280th, new high), IIT Guwahati (joint 395th, into the top 400 for first time), and IIT Hyderabad (591st-600th band, first year in the top 600).

But while Indian universities have been improving their performance in research impact, they have struggled in institutional teaching capacity, with 35 universities suffering declines and no Indian university ranking among the top 250 for Faculty:Student Ratio.