The world university rankings – Tsinghua ranked Asia’s #1 varsity

China has stepped up its ascent of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, with the country now hosting the top institution in Asia for the first time under the current methodology.

Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia in the THE World University Rankings 2019 after rising eight places to #22, representing the greatest rise in the Top 30. NUS dropped from joint #22 to #23.

The rise means that Tsinghua now also outranks its Beijing neighbour Peking University. Moreover, it is the first time that a Chinese university has topped Asia’s representatives under the current methodology of the world rankings (since 2011). Over the past year, Tsinghua has improved its citation impact, increased its institutional income and grown its international outlook, with greater shares of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, says he is “not surprised” by Tsinghua’s advance. “It’s easily the number one university in the world for high citation research in mathematics and computing — a combined field in which China has now moved well ahead of the US and, further back, Europe. It is near the top of the world, and rising fast, in physical sciences and engineering,” he says.

Tsinghua is not the only Chinese riser in the table. Zhejiang University has climbed an impressive 76 places to #101 this year, thanks to improvements in its scores for all five metrics underpinning the teaching pillar, as well as research income, research volume, industry income and proportion of international students.

Overall, 72 Chinese universities feature in the table, up from 63 last year, making it the fourth most represented nation globally. Seven Chinese universities remain in the Top 200 and five of these have risen; several lower-ranked institutions have also made progress. The country’s rise is largely driven by improvements in citations impact. The data also show that the average teaching reputation score for China’s ten leading universities is now on a par with the best higher education institutions in the UK and Germany, while China’s average research reputation score among this group is higher than that for the best-performing institutions in France and Australia.

“What we are seeing is China going past everyone in Asia and moving towards the US. There is an immense amount of collaboration within China and this vast network, plus all its international links, creates an immensely productive mega-environment as with the rise of American universities from 1950 to 1980,” says Marginson.

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