Internationalisation of Chinese RMB: Opportunities for universities?

What has been one of the most interesting discussions in the financial world of London, it must be all the buzz on the internationalisation of the Chinese currency RMB.

Since 2003, China has initiated various policies to internationalize its currency. London has been very lucky to become an important host as a centre for renminbi (RMB) business outside China, since its launching on 18 April 2012.

Based on the press release from the HM Treasury and The Rt Hon George Osborne MP, In October 2013, London accounts for 62% of global RMB trading conducted outside of China and Hong Kong, and 28% of all international RMB payments, more than Singapore. The Guardian reported that the daily trade of RMB in London was about £3.1bn since 2012.

rise of RMB
(The rapid rise of using the Chinese currency to settle international trade and other financial accounts around the world since the start of the internationalisation of the RMB in the 2000s)

Obviously, this is such a big deal for people who are working in the financial sector in the UK, as well as overseas. But what does this mean to universities around the world? To manage such a massive transition in the financial sector around the world also means the huge demand of new talents needed. That is how some universities respond to this big opportunity, such as Nottingham University in the UK.

Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit was invited to join leaders of Nottingham University for a visit in China to witness the official launch The Guangdong Nottingham Advanced Finance Institute on 15th April 2014.

Between 2003-2010, there is a phenomenal growth in the Chinese financial market, which see the rapid rise of need to cultivate talents specialised in international finance from 2.8 million to 3.7 million, with an increase of 29%.

To meet this demand on talent cultivate, this institution was formed as a collaborative provision between the UK’s Nottingham University, Guangdong Provincial Government, China’s Guangdong University of Finance. The accounting and finance course in Nottingham University is also included in the QS World University Ranking by Subjects 2014. You could click here to find out more information.

(Professor Sir David Greenaway, the sixth Vice-Chancellor of The University of Nottingham spoke at the official launch of this joint-venture)

(Dr. Lu Lei, President, Guangdong University of Finance spoke at the launch of the joint UK-China Financial Institute. Dr. Lu Lei was the youngest president of this university and he was later promoted to become the youngest ever Head of the Research Bureau of the People’s Bank of China, “the brain” which decides the key policies of the central Bank of China).

This Institute aims to:
1. Build a platform to transfer advanced financial knowledge between the UK and China;
2. Access to London’s leading financial expertise and talent pool;
3. Develop multilevel talent for China, especially South China for its financial service sector;
4. Establish a cutting edge knowledge and expert base to advance research and development in financial innovations.

The majority of students this institute would be targeting are on-the-job training and higher level professional development working in the financial sectors in South China, with top lecturers drawing from China, UK and beyond.

At the end of the official launch, senior representatives from Nottingham University(Professor Sir David Greenaway, Vice-Chancellor; Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation; Professor Nick Miles; Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost, University of Nottingham Ningbo China; Professor Chris Rudd, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement ), British Embassy in Guangzhou(Alastair Morgan, Consular-General, British Consulate-General Guangzhou);Dr. Lu Lei, President, Guangdong University of Finance; and representatives from the Guangdong Provincial Government.



QS World University Rankings by Subject Released Today

This year’s QS World University Rankings by Subject underline the status of Cambridge, Massachusetts as the nerve center of global academic research. Yet they also point to world-leading departments at a surprisingly diverse range of institutions, extending far beyond the big names that tend to dominate overall university rankings.

Home to Harvard and MIT, Cambridge was originally named in honor of the UK’s University of Cambridge, but this year’s results suggest that it has long-since overtaken its namesake when it comes to hosting world-class academic departments. Between them, Harvard and MIT account for 20 of the 30 number one spots. Harvard maintains a slender lead over its neighbor, with 11 top spots to MIT’s nine.

Harvard’s dominance is particularly pronounced in the life sciences, in which it tops four of the five subjects: medicine, psychology, pharmacy, and biological sciences. Harvard is also the pre-eminent institution in the field of social sciences and management, ranking first in five of the eight subjects: sociology, politics, law, economics and accounting.

In the natural sciences, Harvard tops the rankings for mathematics and earth and marine sciences. Perhaps surprisingly, the only discipline area in which it fails to take a single number one ranking is the arts and humanities, though it does make the top five in all but one of the six disciplines.

While Harvard rules the life and social sciences, local rival MIT is the undisputed global powerhouse in engineering and technology, recording a clean sweep of the top spots in four areas of engineering (civil, mechanical, chemical and electrical) plus computer sciences.

Other subjects in which MIT emerges as the world leader include statistics, three of the core science disciplines (physics, materials science and chemistry), plus linguistics – a discipline in which MIT has led the way, most famously through the work of Noam Chomsky, one of the most frequently cited humanities scholars of all time.

The dominance of the Cambridge, Massachusetts institutions is almost total in the STEM disciplines, in which between them they take a remarkable 14 of the 16 top spots. Yet elsewhere the field is surprisingly diverse. Indeed, the University of Oxford is the only other institution to top the table in more than one discipline, ranking number one globally in English, geography and modern languages, all areas of traditional strength.

Big names under threat?

Since their introduction in 2011, QS World University Rankings by Subject have been honed to discriminate more accurately between strength in a particular discipline area and the inflating effect of overall institutional prestige. This is reflected in the disciplines that fall outside of the sphere of Harvard-MIT dominance, in which eight institutions feature at the top of ten different tables.

Of these eight institutions, three are placed in the top ten in the overall QS World University Rankings. Oxford takes three top spots, Cambridge is number one in history, and Stanford University tops the table for statistics. Institutions from outside of the global top 20 take the number one spots in all five of the remaining tables.

Berkeley maintains its top spot for environmental sciences, while its fellow University of California branch UC Davis ranks number one in agriculture. Another of the big US public institutions, University of Wisconsin-Madison leads the way on communications and media studies.

New York University’s reputation as a world leader in philosophy is well established within the field, and it tops this year’s table ahead of Oxford, the University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers. And the UK’s Institute of Education takes its place at the top of the ranking for education, ahead of Australia’s University of Melbourne.

The rankings also point to numerous world-class faculties in Asia-Pacific and Continental Europe, regions that have traditionally been eclipsed by the US and UK in overall rankings.

The most successful universities outside of the US and UK in terms of number top-ten rankings are:

–          National University of Singapore (8)

–          ETH Zurich (4)

–          University of Melbourne (4)

–          University of Tokyo (4)

–          Nanyang Technological University (3)

–          Kyoto University (2)

–          Wageningen University (2)

Other universities to make the global top ten in a single discipline include China’s Tsinghua University (materials science), Hong Kong University (civil engineering) and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (pharamacy).

A further five Australian institutions make the top ten in one subject (ANU, Monash, University of Sydney, University of Queensland and University of New South Wales), as do two from the Netherlands (University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology).

Latin America’s top-ranking institution is Mexico’s UNAM (25th in history), while Africa’s top institution, the University of Cape Town, makes the top 50 in education, geography, law and English language and literature.

This geographical diversity shows that world-leading work is taking place at an individual discipline level at a far greater range of institutions than overall rankings would have us believe.



2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject- The Headlines

Perhaps the most important development of recent years in international comparisons of universities has been the publication of subject rankings by QS.

The new edition published today is the most extensive yet, covering 30 different subjects. The rankings provide the only means available to prospective students of placing universities in order for their particular area of interest, rather than as whole institutions or broad faculty combinations.

A recent report on the impact of rankings by the European Universities Association said: “Comparisons between universities on a subject basis can be much more useful for them than global university league tables that try to encapsulate entire institutions in a single score.”

More than 2,500 universities were evaluated for the latest rankings, which for the first time include academics’ H Index in the calculations. A total of 678 universities feature in the top 200 for at least one subject.

The scoring system varies between subjects to allow for the different roles played by citations and the availability of other indicators. However, the main components are reputational surveys among academics and employers, and the research record of the university in the subject being ranked.

The leading institutions in the QS World University Rankings naturally dominate in many subjects – Harvard tops 10 of the 30 rankings – but the exercise also shines a light on centres of excellence in universities that do not reach the same heights in all disciplines. It also allows specialist institutions, such as Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in medicine, to demonstrate their quality.

After Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)is the most successful university, finishing top in seven subjects. The University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford each topped the ranking in four subjects, Cambridge managed three and Imperial College London and the University of California Davis one.

Cambridge reached the top 10 in 27 of the 30 tables, the largest haul by any university. Oxford and UC Berkeley were next with 32, followed by Stanford with 22.

One more subject area has been added this year – agriculture and forestry, the discipline in which Davis (ranked 100 overall in the institutional table) triumphs. The specialist Wageningen University, from the Netherlands, is second for agriculture and Brazil’s Unicamp, the State University of Campinas, makes the top 20.

Ben Sowter, who is responsible for the rankings as head of the QS Information Unit, said: “Everyone talks about rankings, but QS started all this to help international students make smarter choices, and students tend to pick their subject before their university. Improving and extending these rankings by subject is central to our mission – expect to see more subjects and more universities evaluated in years to come.”

The full rankings for all 30 subjects are available at

2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject

QS World University Rankings by Subject offer new level of detail for students

This year’s revamped QS World University Rankings by Subject have been expanded to cover a record 30 disciplines, offering students the most detailed comparison of the world’s top universities at individual discipline level.

Taking in responses from some 70,000 academic experts and graduate recruiters worldwide, they draw on the largest surveys of their kind. Academics identified the leading universities within their field and area of expertise, while employers named the universities that they regard as producing outstanding graduates in a given discipline.

This year our research citations indicator has been supplemented with a new ‘H-Index’, measuring research productivity and impact. The two measures in tandem help us to more accurately account for both the quality and quantity of a university’s research output in a given field.

Competition at the top

Across the 30 disciplines the number one spots are distributed among large US and UK institutions that operate primarily in English: Harvard (10), MIT (7), UC Berkeley (4), Oxford (4), Cambridge (3), Imperial College London (1) and UC Davis (1).

The 30 individual tables are not intended to combine to form an overall ranking, and indeed there is more than one way to interpret which university comes out on top if we attempt to do so.

While Harvard claims more top spots than any other institution, the university that appears in the top ten in most disciplines is University of Cambridge, with 27, ahead of Oxford and Berkeley on 23, with Stanford (22) and Harvard (21).

Cambridge’s near-blanket presence in the top ten indicates that, perhaps more than any other institution, it can claim to be world-class in nearly every major area of academic research. Yet Harvard and MIT have more departments that are truly world leading.

The view from employers

While US institutions remain preeminent for research, the rankings suggest that graduates from the UK’s two most famous institutions are more highly regarded than their Ivy League rivals by the world’s employers.

Employers regard Cambridge graduates as the world’s best in 13 of the 30 subjects, while Oxford ties with Harvard on seven, ahead of London School of Economics, University of Tokyo and UC Davis, top in one subject each.

The US/UK monopoly extends to nearly two-thirds of the elite positions – 397 of the 600 top-20 spots across the 30 disciplines. Yet there is plenty of evidence in these rankings of world-class departments outside of this traditional power cluster.

Asia excels in engineering

The rankings feature several notable performances from Asian universities, particularly in the hotly contested areas of science, engineering and technology.

Nine of the top 20 institutions in civil engineering are Asian, led by Japan’s University of Tokyo (3rd) and Kyoto University (7th), Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (8=) and National University of Singapore (11), alongside three universities from Hong Kong and two from mainland China. The US and UK account for just five of the top 20.

“The shift in global economic power is transforming the international higher education landscape, with the likes of Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore emerging as genuine challengers to the traditional elite,” says QS head of research Ben Sowter. “Many institutions in Europe are struggling to keep pace in technical disciplines, in which financial resources are particularly crucial.”

The pace of change can is demonstrated by the rapid development of young Asian tech-focused institutions. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Nanyang Technological University have been in existence for just over 20 years, yet are now established in the global top 20 in several engineering and technical disciplines.

France and Germany feel the squeeze

France and Germany have both introduced ‘excellence initiatives’ to improve the performance of their top universities, and both can point to positive performances in some areas. Germany has five top-50 institutions for mechanical engineering, led by Rheinisch-WestfälischeTechnischeHochschule Aachen [17], and an impressive five institutions in the top 35 for physics – only the US can claim more.

France can also point to top-20 performances from three of its universities: Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) ranks 14th for modern languages, Sciences Po Paris is 16th for politics and international studies, and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne ranks 18th for law and 19th for history.

Yet the rankings also reveal areas in which both France and Germany are trailing in the wake of intensified global competition. Germany has no top-50 institutions in important areas such as mathematics and economics, while there are no French institutions in the top 50 in computer science or any of the four areas of engineering: chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical.

The increased competition that is squeezing some European institutions out of the global elite is coming not only from Asia, but also increasingly Australia. University of Melbourne makes the global top ten in six subjects, ahead of Australia National University on four, University of Queensland on two, and Monash University on one. Australian universities make the global top 20 in 25 of the 30 disciplines.

Mixed results for the BRIC nations

While Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan emerge as global players in several disciplines, the world’s major emerging economies see more mixed fortunes.

The rankings are positive for China, whose ambitious schemes to improve higher education standards in the last 20 years have yet to see its universities break the top 20 in the overall QS World university Rankings. Here however, there are Chinese universities in the top 20 in ten disciplines, with Tsinghua University ranking tenth in materials sciences and eleventh in statistics.

Brazil’s efforts to improve its research output have been less high profile, yet its universities have been steadily improving their international standing in recent years.Universidade de Sao Paulo in particular performs well here, ranking among the top 50 universities in the world in four disciplines. Brazil’s total of 19 top-200 universities in at least one of the 30 subjects compares to eight from Chile, five from Argentina, four from Mexico and two from Colombia.

Yet there are less encouraging signs from the remaining two BRIC nations, India and Russia. The Indian Institutes of Technology perform reasonably well in their specialist areas, with the IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi and IIT Madras all making the top 50 in at least one of the engineering disciplines. Yet there are 11 subjects in which not a single Indian institution makes the top 200.

The situation is worse in Russia, whose institutions feature in just eight of the 30 disciplines. The best performance comes from Lomonosov Moscow State University, which makes the top 50 in mathematics, a subject in which Russia has historically produced numerous world leaders.

WUR_by Subject logo

2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject: What’s Coming Up?

QS is about to publish the World University Rankings by Subject for the third time. They will be more comprehensive and detailed than ever.

The 2013 subject rankings will include a new subject, agriculture and forestry. Growing populations and changing dietary demands mean that this ancient human concern has never been more topical. We are sure you will want to know the top universities around the world for research and teaching in this area.

The addition of agriculture will bring the total number of subjects we cover to 30. Between them they cover the vast bulk of academic activity, whether in terms of teaching and student numbers, or of research.

Over the past year we have also looked at a range of other possible subjects for inclusion. However, agriculture is the only one for which we felt we had the data needed to provide a reliable outcome.

In addition to a new subject, we are amending the subject rankings by adding a new indicator.

In their first two years, we drew up the rankings on the basis of three measures: citations data, academic opinion and employer opinion. The weightings of the three were subject to “variable geometry.” In some subjects, for example, citations are more important than in others, and in these they would account for a higher share of a university’s possible score.

We are now adding a new measure to these three in the shape of the H-index. Readers of Higher Education World probably know all about this indicator, invented in 2005 by the physicist Jorge Hirsch, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. But if not, here is an article on the matter by Alex Bateman of the Wellcome Trust.

The H-index for an individual, or in our case for a department, combines the number of papers they have generated and the number of times the papers have been cited. So it rewards both quality and quantity. By contrast, our other citation measure is prone to being skewed by a small number of highly-cited papers. Our analysis shows that it correlates well with academic and employer opinion of university achievement in specific subjects.



Getting Specific: Excellence Identified in 29 Disciplines

The QS World University Rankings by Subject are designed to provide targeted information to university applicants, academics, and anyone else who needs to know where there is excellence in a specific discipline.

One unique feature of these rankings is that it is possible for universities which would never be prominent in the overall World University Rankings to do well here. Partly this is because they feature specialist institutions, including postgraduate institutions, which do not appear in the World University Rankings (WUR). But more importantly, the World Rankings are inevitably dominated by large, general universities, alongside an elite of science and technology institutions with highly visible and well-cited research. When we look at specific subjects, there is more scope for surprises.
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QS World University Rankings by Subject

Analyzing the 2012 QS World University Rankings by Subject

Universities from a total of 17 different countries on five continents make the top 20 in at least one of the new subject rankings published by QS. The rankings – now in their second year – cover a record 29 disciplines.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard underline their place at the forefront of global academia in a range of fields, topping the tables in 11 disciplines apiece. The remaining top places are occupied by Oxford and Stanford universities, with three each, and Cambridge, which leads the world in English language and literature.

But the rankings demonstrate that world-class programs are on offer worldwide, and not just in the handful of famous universities that dominate institutional comparisons such as the QS World University Rankings. The exercise is notable for the number of leading departments that are highlighted at institutions unaccustomed to the upper echelons of global rankings.
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