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‘Singapore, Korea new education powerhouses’

education Updated: May 14, 2014 11:41 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

Asia has a few key education powerhouses that India should learn its lessons from as more and more Asian students seek to identify countries in the region as education destinations. Ben Sowter, head of research at Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) talks about the 2014 ‘QS Asia Pacific University Rankings,’ unveiled recently

How do these rankings compare with the global rankings - and what are the most important findings of the survey this year?
The QS University Rankings: Asia was the first regional league produced by QS, back in 2009, in response to a demand from the region itself. We first designed the World University Rankings in 2003 and published them in 2004 because we realised that there was a growing community of international students who wanted to understand which universities were truly world-class. Institutions were also keen to understand how they compared with their peers in a global context.

Over the past decade, the students’ mobility within the Asian region has increased exponentially year on year. A two-third of the international students are Asian and of them a significant proportion is now choosing to study outside their home country but to remain in Asia rather than go West. Such a trend prompted us to engage with academics in Asia to define the criteria for a ranking dedicated to highlight excellence in the region.

The methodology is still based on the four pillars that underpin our World University Rankings: teaching commitment, research impact, employability of graduates and international outlook.

The weightings have been adjusted to better reflect and capture the priorities of universities in the Asian context and their reality.

For instance, in the Asian rankings, we have included ‘Papers per Faculty’ as one of the research indicators – as measuring the research productivity in a region where there are many young universities is relevant - as is measuring the student exchanges. The comparison is in the boxes below.

Which country would you say is ‘emerging’ in terms of education excellence?
These rankings have highlighted the emergence of Singapore and Korea as the new education powerhouses, that are challenging more established countries such as Japan and territories like Hong Kong. If we consider the overall population and the economic size of certain countries, it is apparent that South Korea, with 46 universities ranked. is doing extremely well – as is Taiwan with 28.

Singapore’s leading university, NUS – tops the table, while the other top local institution, NTU, ranks 7. China has 73 institutions ranked and Japan 68. Impressive numbers, but it is obvious that their dominance is challenged by other very competitive players.

The table above shows how many universities each country has in the ranges considered

Which countries are included in the rankings and why?
For the sixth edition of the QS University Rankings: Asia, 491 institutions have been evaluated 474 ranked and 300 published. We have included all the countries in Asia (excluding Central Asia and Asia Minor)

What are the challenges that Asian universities face in comparison to the top-ranked global institutions?
There are no quick fixes to rise to the top. Systematic and sustained performance improvement requires institutional autonomy, consistent institutional leadership without political intervention, a permanent culture of laying structural and financial foundations for future growth and a single-minded focus on identifying and nurturing the most carefully selected international partnerships. Fierce branding guidelines wouldn’t hurt either.

As English-speaking and major international transit hubs, Singapore and Hong Kong enjoy some natural competitive advantages and have long dominated the top few places in this table. However, NUS taking the top spot this year has also been the product of its undeniable evolution to world-class with cutting- edge education and research.