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NUS loses title of ‘top university in Asia’ to China’s Tsinghua University

SINGAPORE — After being Asia’s top university for three years running, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has lost that title to Tsinghua University, marking the first time that a university from China has claimed the top position in the region.

The 2018-2019 Times Higher Education World Rankings — which lists the best universities globally — showed that the National University of Singapore dropped by one spot to 23rd place.

The 2018-2019 Times Higher Education World Rankings — which lists the best universities globally — showed that the National University of Singapore dropped by one spot to 23rd place.

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SINGAPORE — After being Asia’s top university for three years running, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has lost that title to Tsinghua University, marking the first time that a university from China has claimed the top position in the region.

Released on Wednesday (Sept 26), the 2018-2019 Times Higher Education World Rankings — which lists the best universities globally — showed that NUS dropped by one spot to 23rd place. Dominating the higher ranks are universities from the United Kingdom and the United States.

NUS first made its mark as the best university in Asia in the 2015-2016 ranking, beating out the University of Tokyo to be the only Asian university in the global top 30 at 26th place.

In the latest ranking, Nanyang Technological University continue its climb up the charts by claiming the 51st position, one spot higher than the previous year’s listing.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the higher education data provider said that the drop in NUS’ ranking is due to a “slight fall in citation impact and share of international students and increased global competition”.

Its editor of global rankings Ellie Bothwell said that there is “no doubt” NUS is among the best in the world. Though that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, Ms Bothwell noted that the “rise of China could result in NUS’ global position slipping again slightly in future years”.

She added: “NUS must ensure that it can sustain its stellar research performance and continue to secure high levels of funding if it wants to prevent falling behind.”

On NTU’s performance, Ms Bothwell said that the university’s move up the rankings is largely due to “improved scores for teaching and research reputation”.

As for Tsinghua University’s rise, it was largely due to improvements in its teaching environment.

The educational institutions are assessed using 13 indicators including teaching, research, citations and international outlook. The Times Higher Education World Rankings is one of several such international rankings, with the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings also being closely watched to gauge a university’s standards.

Overall, Oxford University in the UK continues to be the world’s leading university for the third consecutive year, followed by Cambridge University in the UK and Stanford University in the US.

GROWING COMPETITION

In Asia, Tsinghua’s big leap to the top — having climbed eight places to reach the 22nd spot — also means that it is China’s new number one university. It surpassed Peking University, which fell four spots to 31st, for the first time in the rankings. Times Higher Education said that Peking University’s slip was because of “increasing competition and a decline in research income”.

Tsinghua University also overtook a number of the top universities in Western countries, including the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as New York University.

When it comes to research, it claimed the sixth position, above American institutions such as Princeton and Yale as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Located in Beijing, Tsinghua University was established in 1911 and offers a diverse range of courses, from journalism to arts and design as well as aerospace.

With China having 72 universities in the rankings, the country is the fourth most-represented globally. Times Higher Education’s editorial director of global rankings Phil Baty noted that this showed China “has positioned its universities at the heart of its national economic growth strategy”.

China’s formula for success includes having an “intense focus” in attracting and retaining the best global talent, he added.

Mr Baty said that other emerging nations have begun to emulate China’s formula. “(They) could well challenge the continued Anglo-American dominance of the rankings in future years.”

He observed that the traditional power regions for higher education such as America, Europe and Australia are “experiencing effects of deepening (cost) cuts and creeping isolationism”.

To maintain their present standards of excellence on those terms while facing growing global competition is “unsustainable”, he added.

“As East Asian universities continue to rise up the ranks, the future of the old elite will depend on strong investment, and positive policies that allow universities to attract and retain the very best international talent.”

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