Education and Skills

These are the top ranking universities in Asia for 2024

Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, tops the world rankings in Asia for universities.

Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, tops the world rankings in Asia for universities. Image: REUTERS/Thomas Peter.

Phil Baty
Chief Global Affairs Officer, Times Higher Education
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Horizon Scan: Markus Herrmann

  • The Times Higher Education's (THE) World University Rankings 2024 were announced recently.
  • China maintains a strong presence in these rankings – with seven of the world's top 100 universities.
  • THE's Asia University Rankings highlight a strong surge for universities in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Education, science and technology are core catalysts powering the “Asian Century” – and as we approach the first quarter of this much-heralded geopolitical era, a new data analysis of more than 700 universities from 33 Asian nations provides important insights into the shifting dynamics of the vast Asian continent.

For two decades, Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University Rankings have demonstrated the extraordinary rising research power and influence of China, with Beijing’s Tsinghua and Peking universities rapidly closing-in on the world top 10 positions – in 12th and 14th place respectively in the 2024 edition of the world rankings. Overall, mainland China now boasts seven world top 100 universities, up from just two in 2020, while Hong Kong has a further five world top 100 universities.

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THE's Asia University Rankings released at the end of April, offer a deeper, contextual dive into the data behind the world rankings – and they highlight a strong surge for universities in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

While China naturally takes the bulk of the top rankings in Asia - with seven of Asia’s top 10 universities based in China and Hong Kong – Singapore leads a remarkably strengthening ASEAN group of universities, with the National University of Singapore taking 3rd place in Asia, followed by Nanyang Technological University, which rises up from 5th to 4th this year.

“Significant transformation is taking place in higher education within the ASEAN region,” says Tan Eng Chye, President of National University of Singapore (NUS). “Established universities are expanding while new institutions are rising.”

ASEAN is the world’s fifth largest economy, and a burgeoning and culturally diverse region of over 670 million people – one third of which are young people below the age of 20, says Tan. So the growing strength and impact of the region is vital to its continued success - “offering students greater diversity than ever before, in university education as well as lifelong learning”.

“Universities here are also playing an increasing role in research that is driving change and making an impact in medicine, sciences, environment, policy and community. Education and research will be driving forces for the region’s future and growth,” says Tan.

The THE Asia University Rankings provide a powerful indicator of the shifting geopolitics of education, research and innovation – examining tens of millions of research papers and using 17 separate performance indicators to assess universities across their research, their international academic reputation, their teaching, their international talent attraction and their connections to industry and creation of intellectual property.

Beyond Singapore’s great strength, Malaysia has 23 universities in the 2024 edition of the Asia University Rankings – with 12 institutions moving up the rankings and seven retaining their positions from last year. Malaysia’s top-ranked universities all made significant gains, with Universiti Teknologi Petronas taking joint 52nd after moving up 11 places from last year’s 63rd, University of Malaya moving up from 66th last year to 65th and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia joining the Asia top 100 list moving up to 85th from 161st last year.

Thailand has 19 ranked universities – and 17 of them move up the rankings or maintain their position from last year, with the top three moving up into the Asia top 200. Chulalongkorn University takes 117th place, Mahidol University takes 139th place and and King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi ranks 192, all three moving up from the 201–250 band last year.

The performance of Indonesia’s 24 ranked universities is more stable, but the national flagship University of Indonesia reaches the top 250 this year, up from the 251-300 band, while Universitas Gadjah Mada made the top 400, up from 401-500.

“Opportunities abound in the ASEAN region, especially in the demand for talents in big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning for digital transformation; sustainability solutions for climate change; and healthcare innovation. A well-educated and globally-minded workforce, including young graduates supported in their entrepreneurial ambitions, will accelerate economic growth, attract investments, drive scientific and technological advancements, enhance the bloc’s competitiveness in global markets, and promote meaningful regional collaboration and integration,” says NUS President Tan. “NUS is excited to be part of the growth and transformation of ASEAN.”

What does the future hold for Asia?

So what does the latest rankings data suggest for research and higher education power for the next quarter of the Asian century?

“There is no doubt that Asian countries… will become more dominant in terms of academic research in the next 10 or 20 years,” Futao Huang, Professor at the Research Institute of Higher Education at Hiroshima University, told THE. China’s great rise will provide a halo effect for other Asian nations, he predicts, drawing in more talent and international research collaboration to the wider benefit of East Asia.

For Ming Cheng, a Professor of higher education at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, the China-led rise of Asia in global higher education and science may even change the lingua franca of global science: “English might gradually lose its dominance as the language of scientific research,” she says - which would further bolster Asia’s position as the new centre of gravity for research and innovation.

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