• Thu
  • Oct 16, 2014
  • Updated: 2:17pm
NewsHong Kong

Cash-rich universities in Singapore, South Korea eclipsing Hong Kong institutions

Universities in neighbouring countries reap rewards of investment in higher education by taking the No 1 and 2 spots in Asian standings

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 7:51am

Hong Kong universities have been eclipsed at the top of the Asian rankings by institutions from Singapore and South Korea, countries that have poured money into higher education.

For the first time in the QS rankings' five-year history, a Hong Kong university is not the top Asian institution for higher education. After heading the rankings for the past three years, the University of Science and Technology has slumped to fifth, supplanted by the National University of Singapore, which was equal second with the University of Hong Kong last year.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology leapt from sixth to second, while HKU slipped one place to third and the Chinese University of Hong Kong rose one place to sixth.

Singapore and Korea have been on an upward trajectory in recent years

Compilers of the rankings said strong research and technological development in Singaporean and South Korean universities had contributed to their fast development, while Hong Kong universities had weakened in their teacher-student ratio.

"Singapore and Korea have been on an upward trajectory in recent years," Ben Sowter, head of research at British-based QS University Rankings, said yesterday. "Both have channelled their current economic dynamism into ambitious higher education investment programmes."

The latest QS World University Rankings last month put HKU at 26th. In March, the city's oldest university was rated 43rd in the latest Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, down from 36th last year.

South Korea's research and development spending accounted for 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product in 2010, while Singapore spent 2.1 per cent. Hong Kong spent 0.73 per cent in 2012.

Joshua Mok Ka-ho, acting vice-president in research and development of the Institute of Education, said the city's lack of scientific and technological development was related to the overall education system, which aimed at making sure pupils passed exams instead of fostering their creativity.

He said the lack of industries here - unlike in South Korea, which has electronics giant Samsung and a car industry - had further deterred pupils from taking science and technology subjects out of career concerns.

Sowter said the switch to a four-year university system in 2009 - leading to universities admitting a double intake of secondary school graduates through both the old and new systems in 2012 - had weakened the faculty-student ratio, a performance indicator used in the rankings.

Other indicators include reputation of academics and employers, volume and citations of papers, proportion of international faculty and students, and proportion of inbound and outbound exchange students.


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This article is now closed to comments

I wouldn't worry, qs is rubbish because it doesn't reflect the standards of teaching quality and in humanities. It only focuses on research and citations so prospective students shouldn't be swayed by this ranking.
HKUST fell because the double cohort year of 2012-2013 skewed the local student intake percentage greatly, replacing the previous high percentage of international students.
Also, the fact that HK universities managed to reach the top five despite teh govt spending only a paltry 0.73 percent of its GDP shows that HK unis have held up pretty well against their Asian counterparts.
The deragatory comments about mainland students is plain rubbish.
I always think that many students from mainland China may lower the standard of the universities in Hong Kong. Their standard of (business) ethic is low although they study abroad including Hong Kong.
Our venerable Hong Kong University has its root planted as an institute mainly to produce English speaking locals to serve in the Colonial Government. Even its recent graduates and high government positions remains intimately linked -- this is how HKU defines its success. International ranking for HKU is irrelevant.
Furthermore, my first attempt to associate HKU unsuccessfully with Hong Kong as a trading port that Hong Kong has nothing much to trade nowadays except in the financial exchange market. A high school graduate can aptly to be a successful stockbroker. Then I thought may be HKU can be a specialist in tourism. But Hong Kong just doesn’t measure up as a destination of historical value. Hong Kong’s shopkeepers don’t need help from HKU to sell goods to tourists.
Reality is that Hong Kong is a city of landlords. As one posting said that 'live in one and rent one out' of one's properties make life pretty settled. Why we really need HKU? Unless I guess you want to be a civil servant or a minister in the government. Not bad at all that a tradition is being upheld by an institution of few hundred years old.
A society in a desert is not the best place for a university to strive.
The real hope for HK is HKUST unless the administrators lose the plot.
You know for a fact that HKU existed 'to produce English speaking locals to serve in the Colonial Government'? What rubbish! Where did you get this, in the University's inception papers, in its Senate meeting minutes? HKU in its former incarnation as a College of Medicine was formed so that after the wars, HK could be served by local people well-equipped to tend to the sick and injured! Other disciplines and faculties were added gradually in later years, as the needs arose, but medicine and doctors were its first priority. Producing civil servants was probably never in any of the founding members' minds. And certainly its millions of graduates have gone to all professions, not just the Government. You are forgetting our architects, engineers, dentists, not to mention the myriad of teachers, bankers, social workers etc.
I am not commenting on your ensuing rabble, believing that to be as ill-based as your opening remarks.
To mer...
HKU’s nearby King’s College too was a school for training English speaking locals as clerks working for the colonial government. I learned the interesting history from reading SCMP years ago. You may have the part of later HKU history evolving into what we have now.
HKU produced and still produces all the professionals required for the development and almost sustaining Hong Kong as a society. Perhaps by HKU’s insistence for a long long history its graduates were the sole ones (the Brits too) to serve in Hong Kong which much still can be said for today. The very narrow purpose beginning of HKU seems can’t be shaken off easily how its graduates see themselves – superior than others who aren’t HKU graduates.
I will not be proud of its architecture school in particular. What architecture or even a paper been produced of distinction for Hong Kong? I may think there is great oppotunity to expound on the future housing development in view of the severe shortage and poor living condition in Hong Kong. With grant(s) receiving from local developer(s), such subject is a taboo.
Any salt in your home? Take such ranking with a pinch of salt.
Wishfull thinking? There is more people who is interested to go to Hong Kong because of Chinasbig economic sucess that is true. Most people out of Hong Kong thinks Hong Kong as a normal Chinese city, i am not saying that to be a **** but that's the truth. There is even many people who thinks Hong Kong is a communist city (which it isnt it's just many people who only have heared the name hong kong thinks that), I live in the West. I am not saying Hong Kong only is dependent on Chinas sucess, it has better universities than the ones in the mainland. Hong Kong is a big and interesting city with the mix of east and west. So i am well aware of Hong Kong's special culture and it good reputation internationaly. And it being one of the biggest financial centres in the world. But Chinas big sucess is a big factor to more international students in Hong Kong, not the only one. But a big factor and no one can deny that. Hong Kong for it world class universities, democratic rights and special culture should be place most people study for their university. I am sorry of the misconception of my former email, i formualted my self wrong.
Congratulations to HKU. It was a difficult and demoralizing time to live through horrendous public criticisms on the seating plans of a university domestic function, and the results of student misbehavior. However, you still kept your activities going and came out third. Congratulations. Maybe without all those distractions you might have done better, and kept your world-class geneticist Vice-Chancellor. I hope all those who contributed to HKU's problems then will hang their heads in shame.




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