• The Times Higher Education’s list of the best emerging-economy universities shows standards are improving across the world.
  • There are more Chinese universities on the list than any other country.
  • Many emerging-market universities are already attracting thousands of international students.

China dominates the ranking of universities in the world’s emerging economies. Not only are seven of the 10 best emerging-market universities in China, but 81 of its institutions feature in the Times Higher Education’s (THE) list for 2020. That’s more than any other country. With 56 universities in the ranking, India is the second-most-represented country out of the 47 that appear in the list.

According to THE, standards of higher education are improving across the world. While the UK and the US continue to dominate the global higher-education league tables, many emerging economies, such as Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, India, Mexico, and Turkey, are becoming attractive options for people seeking alternative destinations for high-quality university education on the global stage.

university higher education science technology 4IR china russia india western economy country ranking
China is top of the class in the Times Higher Education’s Emerging Economies University Ranking 2020.
Image: Times Higher Education

The world is experiencing an unprecedented period of change, driven by technological innovation, globalization, demographic shifts, climate change and more, which brings both opportunities and challenges. Greater efficiencies and productivity are one part of the equation. Another is the displacement of jobs by machines. Many dangerous, repetitive, low-wage jobs are already being automated. But so, too, are tasks that have long been the preserve of the professional classes.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

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As these forces, along with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gather pace around the world – changing the skills and capabilities needed at both the individual and country level – access to a world-class education will be more important than ever.

Here is a summary of the top five emerging-market universities, according to THE.

Tsinghua University’s motto is self-discipline and social commitment. It ranks 23rd in the 2020 world university rankings, and 14th in the world reputation rankings for 2019. It has 38,783 students, 11% of whom are international, and a 12:1 student-to-staff ratio.

It was established in 1911 and has 14 schools and 59 departments, spanning subjects from management to art, with particular strengths in science and technology.

2) Peking University, China

Not far from the Summer Palace, in Beijing, is Yan Yuan (the garden of Yan) – Peking University’s campus. It sits 24th in the 2020 emerging-economies university rankings and was placed joint-17th in the world reputation rankings for 2019.

Called the Imperial University of Peking before China became a republic in 1912, Peking University has 39,575 students, (15% international) and a male-to-female student ratio of 54:46.

Zhejiang University is one of China’s oldest universities, dating back to 1897. It was placed joint-107th in the 2020 world university rankings. It has seven campuses across Hangzhou: Yuquan, Xixi, Haining, Huajiachi, Zhijiang, Zijingang and Zhoushan.

Zhejiang University has 33,427 students, and more than one-fifth are international, which is perhaps to be expected from a university that has formed partnerships with more than 140 institutions from more than 30 countries worldwide. Among its partners are Imperial College London and Princeton University.

The University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) was established in 1958 and was located in Beijing until it relocated to Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, during the Cultural Revolution. It was placed 80th in THE’s Emerging Economies University Rankings 2020.

Home to 16,245 students, USTC has an impressive staff/student ratio of 7.7:1, but only 4% of its intake are international students. Its mission statement says it wants to "focus on frontier areas of science and technology and educate top leaders in science and technology in China and the world."

5) Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russian Federation

The only non-Chinese institution in the top five, Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) is joint-189th in the 2020 rankings. Anton Chekhov, Ivan Turgenev and Mikhail Gorbachev are all former students of MSU.

It has 29,235 students, almost one-third of whom come from outside Russia, and a 48:52 female-to-male student ratio. MSU has 39 faculties offering 128 undergraduate programmes and more than 140 programmes available through distance learning. It also has four museums and one of the largest library systems in Russia.