HKUST's world reputation rises as HKU's slides

The University of Science and Technology may soon replace the University of Hong Kong in the reputations race if the current trend continues

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 3:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 4:22am

The venerable University of Hong Kong could soon see its undisputed title as the city's most reputable institution for higher education usurped by young upstart the University of Science and Technology, if the latest international rankings are anything to go by.

The city's oldest university slid to 43rd place in the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, from 36th last year. But HKUST, which was in the 91-100 range in its first ranking in 2011, continued its steady rise and was placed in the 51-60 band this year, from 61-70 last year. Chinese University, the other local institution in the top 100, remained in the 81-90 band.

The rankings were based on a poll of more than 10,000 academics worldwide, who were asked to give their views on the perceived prestige of various universities around the world.

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, said the decline would be disappointing for HKU and warned that the institution might soon be replaced by HKUST, which was 90 years its junior, as the city's most reputable university.

"If those trends continue, it seems likely that maybe in two, three or five years' time, we may find them swapping places," Baty said, attributing HKUST's success to its ability to "find a clear niche and excel in a focused area" like other rising universities such as the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

"Being a large comprehensive university can be a much greater challenge in terms of maintaining excellence across the board as resources are spread more thinly," he said. "Maybe it's one of the reasons HKU has been having some difficulties."

Founded in 1991, HKUST's mission statement is to "advance learning and knowledge, particularly in science, technology, engineering, management and business studies". Its spokeswoman said the university was pleased with its ranking but that pursuing higher rankings was not its goal.

A HKU spokeswoman said the ranking would serve as a general reference for the university in its strive to provide quality education for students and to achieve excellence and innovation in teaching, learning, research and knowledge exchange.

Baty said HKU's appointment of British Professor Peter Mathieson as vice-chancellor would show the university had a "global outlook", though a backlash against the appointment from some staff, who criticised Mathieson's lack of experience in China, could prove negative.

Regionally, Japan's University of Tokyo remained Asia's most reputable, although it fell from ninth last year to 11th this year, the first time out of the top 10. South Korea's Seoul National University was Asia's biggest climber - rising 15 places to 26th.

The top three were all American universities - Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford.