When you think of the best universities in the world, images of the US’ Ivy League schools, such as Harvard and Yale, or the UK’s University of Oxford and University of Cambridge will likely spring to mind. These institutions have built their reputations and prestige through hundreds of years of graduate and staff achievement.

But their historic dominance is being challenged by some rising higher educational stars, according to a set of university rankings focused on younger campuses.

In the latest table of the world’s best universities under 50 years old compiled by higher education marketing company QS, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU) comes out on top. Founded in 1991 and with more than 30,000 students, NTU has held pole position among young universities for the past four years.

In QS' ranking of all universities, NTU has steadily climbed from 39th in 2015 to 11th in 2018, above well-known institutions such as Princeton, Yale and Columbia.

The young universities are ranked according to performance across six criteria: academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations per faculty member, the ratio of faculty members to students, the proportion of international students and the proportion of international faculty members.

Six of the top 10 universities in the list are based in Asian countries – Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea – while schools in Finland, Australia, France and Spain make up the remaining four spots. Institutions in Hong Kong dominate the top of the list with three universities – Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University – all in the top 10.

The US does not have much of a presence in the rankings, which include 150 schools in total, with only George Mason University and the University of Texas making an appearance. While there are 15 UK-based institutions in the list, the highest ranked is Oxford Brookes University in 41st place.

Universities in 25 countries make up the list and more than a third of those featured are based in Asia. According to Times Higher Education, many of these newer institutions are on the rise because of the quality of their research and excellence in a smaller number of disciplines compared with older schools, which tend to perform well in all subjects.

While NTU offers a comprehensive range of subjects - it is ranked fourth in the overall world rankings for engineering and technology, its research output is ranked as very high.