For First Time, China’s Tsinghua University Ranks Top 20 in Times List

Mainland China’s Tsinghua University has become the first Asian university to break into the top 20 list since the current methodology was launched in 2011, the latest Times Higher Education (THE) list showed.

According to the THE World University Rankings 2021 released Wednesday, Tsinghua University jointly ranked 20th (along with Duke University in the US), up 3 places from last year, with a record 1,527 institutions qualifying this round, a 9% increase from the 2019 total of 1,397.

In addition to Tsinghua University, other Chinese institutions included Peking University (23rd), Fudan University (joint 70th), Zhejiang University (joint 94th), and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (100th), have all improved their positions since last year.

This year marks a major milestone as mainland China disrupts the traditional domination of Western universities at the top of the table, Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at THE, told China’s state-owned media Xinhua.

“If homegrown talent from China stays in China instead of making its traditional migration to elite Western institutions, particularly in the United States and the UK, we could see the start of a dramatic rebalancing of the global knowledge economy,” he added.

Gu Huini, founder of educational service firm Zoomin Academy, also a Shanghai-based education industry observer, said the THE world university 2020 list already shows the rise of mainland China’s universities.

With bar charts showing the top 10 countries based on the number of universities in the top 200 rankings in 2016 and 2020, China is the only newcomer to this group, ranking joint 6th in 2020 despite not having appeared in the top 10 five years ago.

“The rapid rise of China is clearly visible in these charts, which reveal how the country has improved in terms of representation and individual institutional performance over the past five years,” the THE article said.

The University of Oxford in the UK, tops the rankings for the fifth consecutive year. Institutions in the US still dominate the top positions, filling 8 out of the top 10.

In terms of representation, the US has the highest total qualifying universities in the top 200 with 59, followed by the UK with 29 and Germany with 21. The Chinese mainland also recorded its highest total of institutions in the top 200, with seven.

Meanwhile, there are 141 first-time entrants in the rankings this year, topped by France’s recently merged Paris-Saclay University (joint 178th).

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THE World University Rankings 2021 include more than 1,500 universities across 93 countries and regions, according to THE website.

The table is based on 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

This year’s ranking analyzed more than 80 million citations across over 13 million research publications and included survey responses from 22,000 scholars globally.