University of Hong Kong falls out of world's top 50 list in reputation survey

Both of the local institutions that made a British magazine's top 100 list scored lower than before

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 March, 2015, 1:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 March, 2015, 9:32am

For the first time since 2011, the University of Hong Kong is not considered one of the top 50 universities in the world, according to an annual reputation ranking from the London-based magazine Times Higher Education.

The head of the ranking publisher said the fall might be related to worldwide concerns about the city's freedom of speech and academic freedom after the pro-democracy Occupy movement last year.

HKU, which ranked 43rd last year, now ranks between 51 and 60. The magazine does not apply individual numbers to universities outside the top 50, but rather assigns them to fields of 10, because many have similar scores.

The University of Science and Technology, which is the only other Hong Kong university to make it into the top 100, fell from the 51-60 field to 71-80.

The rankings were compiled based on the results of an annual academic reputation survey commissioned by the magazine. For this year's rankings, researchers asked 9,794 scholars from 142 countries to nominate no more than 10 of the best institutions in their field of expertise, based on their experience and knowledge. The survey took place during December and January.

Rankings editor Phil Baty said that while researchers did not study the reasons behind the changes in ranks, it would be "reasonable to speculate" that the Occupy movement might have highlighted some of the city's challenges.

Baty said one of the best attributes of local universities was that they preserved British education traditions such as academic freedom and free speech, while providing "a fantastic link with the best attributes of the Chinese system".

He suggested the protests highlighted the notion that that freedom "is not as straightforward as it used to be".

An HKU spokeswoman said different university rankings were based on different criteria and weightings, which could also change from time to time. She said the university would take note of the latest results.

Professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho, vice-president of the Institute of Education, said he had not seen evidence that the government interfered in Hong Kong's universities. He suggested greater investment by the central government and Singapore in competing institutions could have affected the rankings.

Japan's University of Tokyo is the top ranked in Asia, at 12th place, followed by National University of Singapore, at 24th, and Tsinghua University, at 26th.