Asia in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15

The QS World University Rankings for 2014/15 suggest that although Asia has many excellent universities, its top institutions still cannot vie with the big hitters of Europe and North America.

The top 200 ranked institutions include 33 in Asia. As the only nation in the region with a truly developed economy, it is no surprise that Japan is home to ten of them. And its top institution, the University of Tokyo, is one place up this year in 31st spot.

But perhaps the leaders of Japanese higher education will be less pleased than alarmed by these results. They are bound to notice that Tokyo shares its position with Seoul National, up here by four places. If SNU outranks Tokyo some time soon, the symbolism will not be missed in Korea or Japan. SNU now has a good lead over Tokyo in international faculty and students, but does less well on our other measures.

Another change in this year’s Ranking that will be noted along the corridors of power is that Tsinghua University has emerged as China’s top institution. It is in 47th position, ten places ahead of Peking, which is down by 11 since 2013. Tsinghua is marginally better-liked than Peking in our global employer survey. And in a continent whose universities tend not to bring in many international students, it has slightly more of them than Peking. However, it remains true that even Tsinghua is only ninth among the Asian universities we rank, and that there is little evidence of overall improvement in the standing of Chinese institutions.

One thing that does not change in our rankings is the modest standing of Indian universities. The best-placed is the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, up 11 places this year to 222 or, to put it another way, behind seven Chinese institutions, 11 in Japan, and a plethora of others in Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and other countries. Indian universities are well-liked by academics and employers, but their record in publishing cited papers, their miserable faculty/student ratios and their low appeal to international staff and students all hold them back in our Rankings.

It also remains true this year that the top Asian universities are in Singapore and Hong Kong. Their location allows them to maintain deep links to the West as well as routine use of the English language. The National University of Singapore is up two places to 22, and the University of Hong Kong down two to 28. Hong Kong has five universities in the top 200 and Singapore two, meaning that more or less the entire higher education system of both countries is of world standing.

● The QS World University Rankings for 2014/15 are at We expect to publish the next edition of the Asian University Rankings in spring 2015.


University Choice: Employment Before Self Actualization


Employment, employment, employment! Since the financial crisis of in 2008, youth unemployment has become regular headline news around the world. Enhancing the employability of recent graduates is a priority for the global higher education sector.


The golden days where one could easily secure a decent job after graduating from a good university are probably gone. The massive expansion of higher education means universities are producing more graduates every year in a wider range of subject areas than ever before. At the same time, a contracting labor market in many countries around the world is not able to create enough demand for new jobs. As a result, employers are becoming increasingly selective, recruiting candidates with higher levels of qualifications and relevant work experience.  In this competitive environment, many decide to further their education by investing in a master’s degree or a PhD, while others often have to lower their expectations in order to secure their first full-time job.


International work and study experience is becoming increasingly important to employers. This is highlighted in the QS Global Employer Survey over the past three years, where 60% of 27,957 employers from 116 countries value an international study experience when recruiting graduates.


An important factor to consider when selecting a university is deciding where one wishes to live and work, post-graduation. The world power is gradually shifting from the traditionally affluent developed countries, mainly in the West, to the developing countries such as the BRICS and others, especially in Asia.


The economies of developed countries appear to be experiencing some kind of stagnation or saturation. Cutting fiscal deficits while finding foreign investment to stimulate domestic demand is a tactic employed by a number of governments in order to contain the detrimental effects of recession. Weakening economies offer fewer job opportunities; therefore, governments are often under pressure to tighten up immigration policies to limit the ability of companies to employ foreign candidates in an attempt to secure more jobs opportunities for domestic applicants.


Some of the most popular study destinations in the West are implementing new immigration regulations; hence it is advisable for international students to consult visa information from official government sources as part of their research for the best study option.




Things seem to be quite the opposite in the emerging world where their economies are on the rise. The BRICS countries continue to show record GDP growth, especially when compared with the traditional super economic powers. Noticeable is also the rise of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, which, with a cumulative population of over 600 million and a combined nominal GDP of US$ 2.1 trillion in 2012, are predicted to grow 5.5% in 2013.


ASEAN countries are committed to integrating their economies by 2015 and create a free economic zone with free movement of labor, finance and trade between its ten member countries. Similar initiatives have been planned in Latin America and in Africa.  Some of these countries are increasing access to university education at national level, investing heavily in R&D and are welcoming talented minds from all over the world. Hence, when evaluating their next study move, students of the Millennial Generation should seriously consider the study and work destinations that will offer the best post-graduation career opportunities.




Many will argue that going to university is not only about getting a job. I complete agree. I am a big fan of Maslow’s theory of the ‘hierarchy of needs’. In an ideal world, as advocated by many, education should be a human right to which everyone has equal access, whatever their background. In essence, university should be a ‘physiological’ layer, a basic need. Choosing the right university program should increase a student’s chances of reaching the most motivating layer of ‘self actualization’ in the work force and personal life. However, in reality, the bottom layers of the pyramid must be satisfied first.


The same theory should be applied when choosing the right degree program, university and country in order to unleash one’s full potential. In the short term, be realistic and pragmatic; find the right course in order to secure the ‘physiological’ layer first. Does the university have a good reputation among employers? If you wish to remain in the host-country after graduation, consider factors such as whether the country has favorable post-study work visa conditions for international students. Is the economy of the country vibrant enough to accommodate more graduate job-seekers? If these needs are satisfied, the ‘self actualization’ will follow behind closely.


The QS World University Rankings is particularly relevant to internationally-minded prospective university students because it is the only global ranking that takes into account the opinion of employers, who are asked to indicate the domestic and international universities from which they prefer to recruit. Students should use the rankings to glean information which can help them achieve their pragmatic goals before hopefully reaching the top of the pyramid in the long-term.


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The Rise of Glocal Education: ASEAN Countries

Recent years have seen growing interest in a new type of international student: the ‘glocal’ student. Glocal students have been defined by Dr. Rahul Choudaha, director of Research & Advisory Services at World Education Services, as students who have global aspirations, but prefer to stay in their home country or region for education – and the fast-developing ‘ASEAN’ countries are leading this trend.

The Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company have predicted that by 2020 there will be 100 million people with middle class spending patterns across the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Will glocal students from this emerging regional demographic represent the future of transnational education (TNE)?

The new international students?


The motto of the United Nations is, “Think globally, act locally”. In a globalized economy, every student should be educated as an international student, a global citizen with the aspiration to compete globally. However, not everyone is lucky enough to be blessed with the talent and wealth to be admitted to the world’s most competitive and expensive universities.

Transnational education, defined as education for students based in a different country to the degree-awarding institution, is becoming increasingly popular. It often offers students an international experience with the advantages of better affordability, lower English language requirements, less competitive admission standards, and regional economic initiatives.
The rise of ASEAN countries

23rd ASEAN Summit

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Asia has increasingly attracted the attention of the world with its booming economy and the abundance of business opportunities in countries such as China, India and now ASEAN. The ASEAN countries are home to 600 million people, with a combined nominal GDP of US$ 2.1 trillion in 2012, predicted to grow at an annual rate of 5.5% in 2013.

What is also striking is their economic ambition: by 2015, ASEAN aims to integrate the whole Southeast Asia region into the ‘ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)’, with free movement of goods, services, investment, labor, and capitals.

Just look at how the European Union operates now, and you can imagine what a massive change this would bring in two years’ time to everyone who is lucky enough to be connected with ASEAN, or Asia in general. This applies both to students and universities.



Developing southeast Asian universities

Higher education will play a crucial role in supporting the continued economic integration of ASEAN by 2015. An ambitious plan was set up in 2009, aimed at creating a systematic mechanism to support the integration of universities across Southeast Asia.

Student mobility, credit transfers, quality assurance and research clusters were identified as the four main priorities to harmonize the ASEAN higher education system, encompassing 6,500 higher education institutions and 12 million students in 10 nations. The ultimate goal of the scheme is to set up a Common Space of Higher Education in Southeast Asia.

Individual ASEAN governments have increased public investment in universities to support the ASEAN Higher Education Area, and the region’s burgeoning knowledge economy. Measures have been set up to strengthen the performance of Southeast Asian universities across a wide range of indicators such as teaching, learning, research, enterprise and innovation.

These initiatives also pave the way for further collaboration and integration between universities in the region, enhancing the overall reputation of Asian universities compared to their competitors in the West and elsewhere in the world. It is not surprising to see the improved performance of many ASEAN universities in this year’s QS University Rankings: Asia.


“Asian higher education is undergoing a rapid transformation, and Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Korea are at the forefront of the assault on the global academic elite,” says Ben Sowter, head of QS Intelligence Unit, which compiles the QS University Rankings: Asia and the QS World University Rankings. “There are already 17% more Asian universities in the global top 200 since the recession, and the next two decades could see leading US and European universities objectively overtaken.”

At the moment Singapore is the only ASEAN country whose universities are operating at the forefront of Asian higher education. But if Asia continues on its current path and emerges as a genuine competitor to the West in the coming years, the increased financial power of a unified ASEAN could start to have a major impact on global higher education. And glocal students in the region would be among the foremost beneficiaries.


2012 rankings season in full swing

The latest QS University Rankings: Asia, published at the end of May, have underlined the rapid progress made by many of the continent’s most youthful universities.

For the second successive year, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) topped the ranking despite the fact that it was founded only in 1991. The National University of Singapore (NUS) moved up to second place, with Hong Kong University in third.

It was the striking performance of universities founded in the last 50 years that caught the eye, however. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) all joined HKUST in the top ten. City University of Hong Kong and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University featured among the top 20.
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The rise of Asia’s young universities

Youth is on the march in Asia. Not only are four of the continent’s top ten universities less than 50 years old, but they are also among the leading institutions in the world for their age.

Asian universities fill four of the top five places in a new table of young universities extracted from the 2011/12 QS World University Rankings to demonstrate their growing power. The more recent figures included in the specialist Asian rankings published today suggest that they will make an even bigger mark this year.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), which is top in Asia for the second year in a row, is the youngest of all, having been founded only in 1991.  The neighbouring Chinese University of Hong Kong, which finishes ahead of HKUST on the different criteria used in the world rankings, is also less than 50 years old.

The ‘50 under 50’ global comparison of young universities shows that HKUST, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nanyang Technological University and KAIST (the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) are not just eminent in their own continent. They are among the top five universities in the world founded since 1962 and in the top 100 of any age.

Seven of the top ten universities in the ‘Under 50’ ranking are in Asia – POSTECH (the Pohang University of Science and Technology) and City University of Hong Kong making up the other high-fliers. Nearly all of them have been on an upward trajectory in the QS World University Rankings.
Other successes in the global comparison of youthful universities include Tsukuba University in Japan, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and the National Yang Ming University, in China. Many others can be expected to join the ranking in future years, as recent investments begin to produce measurable results.

The ability of so many universities to challenge the global elite so early in their existence is a credit to their academics, but it also demonstrates Asian governments’ belief in the power of higher education and their willingness to commit the necessary resources from their booming economies. China’s recent investment in its universities is by far the biggest in the world, and other countries have also spent freely.

In South Korea, for example, 2.6 per cent of GDP was spent on higher education in 2008, according to Unesco. This compares with 1.6 per cent in Australia, 1.5 per cent in New Zealand and 1.4 per cent in Japan.

A number of Asian governments have targeted investment in their leading universities to make them competitive internationally. China’s C9 universities and Japan’s Global 30 program are perhaps the best known of these, but Korea, Malaysia and Thailand all have selective funding programmes to internationalize their top universities and improve their performance in regional and global rankings.

Governmental interest in higher education has been shown through policy developments, as well as pure spending. In Hong Kong, for example, the government has overseen a top-to-bottom reform of the education system, switching from three to four-year degrees in the already successful universities. It is also offering an extensive site for a branch campus of a leading overseas university to educate more of its citizens to a high level.
A recent World Bank report on South Asian countries noted that spending on universities, both public and private, had increased in much of the region. While this growth did not lead to a corresponding increase in student enrolments, the ‘density’ of top-tier universities had increased. The Bank expects this trend to continue.

“Since the majority of countries that are home to top tier universities are either members of the OECD, are approaching the HIC  (high income county) status, or are at the high end of the upper middle income cluster, this result reflects the fact that having reached the threshold of mass tertiary education, governments can afford to prioritize investments on quality,” the report’s authors concluded. “And investments pay off, as shown by their consistent and positive association with measures of quality.”