Top Hong Kong universities, including HKU and Poly U, see drop in world rankings

South China Morning Post

As the data was collected before the anti-government protests, some fear the impact of the social unrest will further weaken the city's academic stance

South China Morning Post |

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The University of Hong Kong saw a drop in rankings in 21 of 39 subjects.

Top Hong Kong universities have seen a number of their subjects drop in the latest global rankings, raising fears the ongoing social unrest in the city will further affect their competitiveness when its impact is manifested in the next few years.

The Britain-based education information firm, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), released World University Rankings by Subject 2020 on Wednesday, which showed a year-on-year drop for top-ranking subjects at institutions, including the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Chinese University.

Analysts said the latest rankings reflected the overall decline in the competitiveness of research conducted by Hong Kong universities, as the data was collected before the anti-government protests, which badly affected the city’s higher education sector in the second half of last year.

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Despite a drop in rankings in many subjects, HKU remained the world’s fourth-best institution to study dentistry, while the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts was rated as the seventh-best higher education institution for performing arts, up six places from 13th last year.

The rankings compared 13,138 programmes in 48 disciplines provided by 1,368 tertiary institutions across 83 locations around the world. The results are based on four metrics: academic and employer reputation, research citations, and impact.

Out of 39 subjects analysed at HKU, 21 subjects suffered a drop in rankings while seven saw a rise. The subject, education, dropped one place to being the world’s seventh best, while medicine fell five places to the 35th spot.

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Politics and international studies suffered one of this year’s sharpest declines by slipping to 31st from 16th last year.

Chinese University saw a drop in 12 out of 37 subjects and improved only in eight. Its law programmes slipped four places from 39th to 43rd, while social policy and administration dropped five places from 29th to 34th.

Six of 24 subjects offered by Polytechnic University received a lower ranking and only three clinched a higher spot. PolyU’s hospitality and leisure management slipped two places from the world’s 5th best to 7th, while civil and structural engineering dropped four places to 19th.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology avoided an overall drop this year with a higher ranking in seven out of 17 subjects, and fall in four subjects.

QS director of research Ben Sowter said the rankings did not reflect the impacts of last year’s protests in Hong Kong, as data was collected between January and April last year while analyses were carried out between October and December.

“What happened in 2019 is yet to be manifested in the results, we will see that over the next three years,” Sowter said.

He said the latest drop in the competitiveness of Hong Kong universities was more because of their research performance, while institutions in mainland China had been rising.

Persistent disruptions in the city could also discourage international students, teachers, or researchers from choosing to attend or work at universities in Hong Kong, he said, leading to a drop in the institute’s research influence and reputation.