Sorry, NUS: Asia’s former top uni now in third place after being beaten by Peking and Tsinghua, again

NUS came in 25th globally, while NTU came in 48th.
The Straits Times

Once the top university in Asia, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is now in third place after being beaten for the second year running by Tsinghua university in this year’s Times Higher Education 2020 ranking.

While it came in second last year, it was ousted from its spot this year by another Chinese university: Peking.

The ranking, published on Thursday (Sept 12), rated some 1,400 universities on factors like learning environment, research reputation, citations, and the international outlook of students and staff.

NUS – which once occupied the top spot in Asia between 2014 to 2017 – came in 25th globally, a drop of two spots from last year.

Meanwhile, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) came in 48th – a rise of three places.

It ranked seventh among Asian universities, after the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, and University of Hong Kong.

According to the ranking, the top five universities worldwide were Oxford, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Cambridge, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Times Higher Education chief knowledge officer Phil Baty reportedly told The Straits Times (ST) that the differences between Tsinghua, Peking and NUS were “very slight”, and that the NUS’ performance had not in fact diminished.

“It is simply the case that China’s top two universities continue to make extraordinary gains, fuelled by decades of reform and investment, huge increases in research productivity, but more recently also in research quality and some important international collaborations,” ST quoted him as saying.

ST’s report also quoted Times Higher Education rankings editor Ellie Bothwell as saying that Singapore was  “not immune to the rise of China”.

As for NTU, its president Subra Suresh said the university was “pleased with its rapidly growing reputation” and was working on nurturing new discoveries, deepening research expertise in energy, food security, cybersecurity and climate change, and teaching students 21st century skills.

Among the top 25 universities, NUS had the second highest ratio of staff to students – 1:17.9 – beaten only by the University of Toronto (1:20.1), which ranked 18th.

NTU’s ratio was 1:15.9.

International students comprised 30 per cent of NUS’ population, and 27 per cent of NTU’s, the ranking found.

In comparison, international students formed 56 per cent and 52 per cent of the student body at Imperial College London (10th place) and University College London (15th place) respectively – among the highest figures across universities in the top 100.

Oxford (1st place) had a student body comprising 41 per cent international students.


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