HKU returns to ranks of world’s 50 best universities

  • The University of Hong Kong places 48th on Times Higher Education list, while HKUST, CUHK and PolyU secure top 200
  • Tsinghua University becomes first mainland Chinese tertiary institution to break into top 10
South China Morning Post |

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The University of Hong Kong’s main campus in Pok Fu Lam. Photo: Shutterstock

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has placed among the world’s top 50 tertiary institutions in an annual reputation ranking, while Tsinghua University has become the first mainland Chinese post-secondary school to break into the top 10.

The classification of 202 universities by the Times Higher Education magazine released on Wednesday was based on the votes of 10,963 published academics from across the world.

The magazine said the mainland’s breakthrough into the top 10 could have an impact on Britain and the United States ability to attract talent and funding.

How did Hong Kong unis do in the Times Higher Education survey last year?

HKU ranked 48th this year after slipping from 44th in 2019 into the 51 to 60 range last year. The magazine only assigns an individual rank for the top 50 universities and groups the rest into bands of varying sizes.

Three other universities in Hong Kong made it to the top 200 but all held onto their previous spot: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (91-100); Chinese University (101-125); and Polytechnic University (126-150).

Concerns have been raised over the impact of the 2019 social unrest and the imposition of the national security law last year on academic freedom.

Various rankings have shown that Hong Kong universities have remained stable in terms of reputation over the past few years. Photo: Shutterstock

A magazine spokesman said fluctuations in rankings could be caused by several factors. “Any change in ranking position is difficult to tie back to a particular cause, especially when looked at over a short time frame of one to two years,” he said.

“On the face of it, it is impossible to say what the impact of the events of 2019-2021 have had on Hong Kong’s universities from a reputation point of view.

“For example, this year sees HKU climb back into the top 50 after slipping into the 51-60 band last year, which is not outside of the normal movement we might expect to see from ranking to ranking.

For example, HKU also appeared in the 51-60 band in 2015.

CUHK and PolyU rise in 2022 rankings, while HKU kept its spot and others drop

The year before, thousands of Hong Kong people took to the street to call for fully democratic elections in the Occupy Central movement.

But the spokesman said that overall the various rankings over the past few years did not suggest Hong Kong universities had undergone any significant changes in terms of reputation.

“No Hong Kong universities have seen major long-term drops that suggest reputation is eroding within the international community, with the largest movement being a single band between 2019 and 2021,” he said.

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An HKU spokesman said: “The University of Hong Kong will continue to strive to provide quality education for students and to achieve excellence and innovation in teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange.”

He cited the institution’s commitment to its vision in becoming “Asia’s global university”, adding this would enhance its international reputation.

Harvard retains top spot on the list as the university with the best reputation for research and teaching. Photo: Shutterstock

Globally, Harvard University remained the top-ranked institution, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford which rose from 5th to 3rd.

Tsinghua University moved up three places to 10th place, the highest spot yet for a mainland tertiary institution.

It was among the record 17 mainland universities that entered this year’s table. Peking University rose from 16th to 15th.

Elsewhere in Asia, the University of Tokyo dropped three places to 13th, while the National University of Singapore stayed at 24th.

Phil Baty, who serves as the magazine’s chief knowledge officer, said the mainland’s breakthrough into the top 10 and its results across the table showed its excellence in higher education was increasingly coming to the notice of the wider world.

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“Reputation is a powerful currency for universities that plays a vital role in attracting student talent, academic talent, new partnerships and even inward investment,” he said.

“That fact means we could see a shift in the balance of power in global higher education over the coming years as mainland China becomes a more attractive proposition for academics and students to work and study. This could not only cause issues for the likes of the US and UK in terms of attracting talent, but also funding and prestige on the world stage.”

The table ranks institutions according to their reputation for research and teaching alongside 11 objective indicators.

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