Singapore On Top Of Asian University Rankings In 2016

When it comes to institutions of higher learning, Asia has some high quality universities and colleges compared to many other regions in the world.

According to the Times Higher Education’s (THE) Asia University Rankings, the top three countries in the area are Singapore, Japan, and China.

In fact, for the first time since the list has come out (four years ago), Singapore is sitting pretty at the top of the list. What’s most remarkable is that Singapore has not only taken the pole position but second place as well.

Traditionally, Chinese and Japanese institutions have been in the top three spots, but due to some impressive work by the Singaporean government in the past year, these institutions have achieved increased success.

Rankings at a Glance: Top Ten Asia Universities 2016

THE Ranking World Ranking Name Country
1 26 National University of Singapore Singapore
2 55 Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore
2 42 Peking University China
4 44 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
5 47 Tsinghua University China
6 59 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
7 43 University of Tokyo Japan
8 116 Pohang University of Science and Technology South Korea
9 85 Seoul National University South Korea
10 148 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology South Korea


As you can see, China and Hong Kong dominate this year’s top 10 list. In fact, the prestigious Peking University tied with NTU for the second spot. That, however, does not diminish Singapore’s accomplishments in the slightest.

In addition to monitoring and tracking Asian universities, THE also keeps a record of all college rankings worldwide. For the last few years, the Singaporean government has taken a strong stance on education by working hard to create world-class universities that bring pride to the country. The standing for both the National University of Singapore and NTU is just the result of a somewhat meteoric rise in world rankings. NUS has climbed fourteen spots since 2012 to be ranked 26th place last year. That, however, pales in comparison to NTU’s incredible 119-spot leap to get to 55th place, all within the last five years.

As far as China and Japan are concerned, both nations are currently tied for the number of universities within the top 200 of THE’s worldwide list. Each country has 39 institutions listed, but the edge goes to China, who has 22 in the top 100 compared to Japan’s 14. Ultimately, however, considering the population difference between the two, Japan’s standings are arguably a bit more substantial. That being said, however, the University of Tokyo did drop from first place to seventh. That drop is significant, especially when compared with China’s two top-ten universities.

When it comes to Singapore, the country has been able to make a lot happen in just a short amount of time. According to Gerard Postiglione, a chair professor at the University of Hong Kong, the Singaporean government has spent a lot of time and money to strategically place its top two universities at the head of the list. In an effort to compete globally, the government has created a lot of value regarding its higher education.

Another reason for Singapore’s standing this year is that the country has reached out internationally. It also did a lot to entice top talent from around the globe. Singapore has a very inviting immigration system which allows the best and brightest to attend its institutions.

Moving beyond Singapore, it’s fair to say that Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan are fast becoming top competitors in the region. With twenty-four institutions each, both South Korea and Taiwan represent the most universities after China and Japan. However, the edge clearly goes to South Korea, which has two top-ten institutions on the list this year.

Hong Kong has done well also and is a good competitor in the international education community thanks to six institutions on the extended 200 list, and each of them is within the top 45.

According to Tony Chan, president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (in sixth place), what makes the area rich in education is a variety of factors. As a gateway into mainland China, Hong Kong has a free flow of information, a diverse group of locals, and a low tax system that incentivizes people to live and work there. Overall, the success of Hong Kong is indicative of a larger positive trend in Asia. As far as Tony is concerned, the area will only become richer, and the universities will only become more successful.

This year, the THE Asia University Ranking features twenty-two countries, including first-timers Bangladesh, Qatar, and Indonesia. This number is higher than last year, which only had fourteen nations in the ranks. It would seem that Tony is right, in that the trend towards better higher education is growing in the region. Soon, titans like Japan and China may have to make room for the new guys. But, for now, Singapore can take a moment and pat itself on the back.

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