Asian Universities Shine In 2021 QS Rankings

As emerging global leaders in higher education, Asian universities show steady progress in the 2021 QS World University and Subject Rankings.

AsianScientist (Apr. 21, 2021) – While university rankings have historically been dominated by Western institutions, Asian universities are making their mark—with improved performances in the 2021 World University and Subject Rankings published by London-based education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

Completed in mid-2020, the 2021 QS World University Rankings (WUR) offers unique insights into the state of higher education just before COVID-19 swept the globe. Meanwhile, the 2021 QS Subject Rankings released in March 2021 reflects the pandemic’s disruptive effects on the education sector. As universities contend with drastic shake-ups to their activities, these metrics may become the benchmark for assessing how universities can adapt and recover in the coming years.

For Asia in particular, the 2021 cycle marks a historical moment, with 26 institutions counted among the global top 100—a new record for the region. Here are five key takeaways from the rankings:

1. China, Singapore and Hong Kong universities emerge as Asia’s best

With over 50 universities ranked in the 2021 QS WUR, China proves that there is strength in numbers, coming in as the third most-represented country just behind the United Kingdom.

In Singapore, major universities National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) remain Asia’s leading institutions. Specifically, NUS maintained its spot as the 11th best institution on the list, with NTU ranked 13th.

Meanwhile, up a notch from last year’s rankings, China’s Tsinghua University broke into the top 15, followed by the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) at 22nd and 27th respectively.

2. Malaysian and Taiwanese institutions soar in subject specialties

A rising star in diverse fields, the National Taiwan University not only placed 66th overall—its highest position yet—but also ranked in the top 50 globally for eight subject specialties, including education as well as civil and structural engineering.

Similarly excelling in the engineering department are institutions in Malaysia. For instance, Universiti Malaya is carving a niche in electrical and electronic engineering (43rd), while Universiti Teknologi Petronas (23rd) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (41st) are showcasing the nation’s strength in petroleum engineering.

In total, eight Malaysian universities rose to the top 50 list across seven different subject areas. Six of them entered the subject rankings just this year, emerging as rising performers in their corresponding fields.

3. Singapore, South Korea and Japan push for impact in life sciences and medicine

With COVID-19 poised to be the biggest public health issue of our time, university programs in the life sciences and medicine are in prime position to influence efforts addressing the pandemic, its aftermath and other pressing health issues.

Case in point: last year, Duke-NUS Medical School researchers and colleagues from NUS discovered that some people had protective T-cell immunity against SARS-CoV-2, despite never having COVID-19. Tackling other key health issues, University of Tokyo scientists are fighting Alzheimer’s disease by using CRISPR to identify new genes crucial to the disease’s development.

Accordingly, the top Asian universities for life sciences and medicine mainly hailed from Singapore, South Korea and Japan, with NUS, Seoul National University and the University of Tokyo ranking 27th, 28th and 33rd globally, respectively. By pursuing impact-driven projects, these institutions shone in research output metrics and recorded impressive academic reputation scores above 90.

4. Singapore and Hong Kong show power in partnership

While research output is a strong indicator for overall university performance, it is the collaborative aspect that sets the top institutions apart.

In the QS subject rankings, programs from NUS, NTU, HKU and the Chinese University of Hong Kong made up 20 percent of the programs from Asia in the list. Through their international collaboration efforts, Hong Kong and Singapore universities saw the benefits trickle down to their individual programs too.

With their upward trajectory in recent years, Asian universities are securing their place as trusted names in global education. For institutions in Japan and the Philippines that slipped in the 2021 rankings, the performance metrics may not necessarily paint the full picture but can nonetheless serve as a nudge towards improvement.

5. Follow the leaders

To enrich the quality of education globally, the best practices from top universities may be worth emulating.

For instance, leading institutions typically have built an international network of faculty and research pursuits. By connecting Asia with the global community, these collaborations are opportunities for sharing expertise and achieving more ambitious, larger-scale projects.

Moreover, top universities benefit from decades of targeted investment from governments and openly seek stronger linkages with industry for better employment, research and innovation outcomes. Beyond boosting institutional scores, focusing on these areas can importantly encourage continued breakthroughs in education.

Want to know more about developments in higher education across the region? Follow Asian Scientist Magazine for more stories on the flourishing community of brilliant researchers in Asia.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Pexels.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Erinne Ong reports on basic scientific discoveries and impact-oriented applications, ranging from biomedicine to artificial intelligence. She graduated with a degree in Biology from De La Salle University, Philippines.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist