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Top Universities in Asia in 2021

By Julia G

Updated April 21, 2021 Updated April 21, 2021

The recently released QS Asia University Rankings 2021 is QS’ biggest Asian rankings yet. This year it features 634 institutions, compared to 550 last year.

The major locations represented include Mainland China (124 universities), India (106 universities) Japan (98 universities), and South Korea (85 universities), accounting between themselves for more than 65% of all ranked universities.

For the third subsequent year, National University of Singapore (NUS) remains number one in Asia. Tsinghua University from Mainland China got their first ever second place climbing from fourth last year. Two new entrants reached this year’s top 10: Universiti Malaya (UM) from Malaysia and Shanghai Jiao Tong University from Mainland China.

There are 93 new entrants overall this year, mostly from Japan, India, South Korea and Pakistan. Six of them secured ranks in top 250.

The rankings are compiled using 11 indicators, each weighted according to their importance in the index. These indicators include academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, international research network, citations per paper and papers per faculty. 

It’s worth noting that the data collected for these rankings reflects the period before COVID-19. Find out more about the methodology used here 

In this article, we will be counting down the top 10 universities in Asia. Alternatively, you can view the full rankings here.

QS Asia University Rankings 2021: Top 10

Rank

University

Location

1

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Singapore

2

Tsinghua University

China (Mainland)

3

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Singapore

4

University of Hong Kong (HKU)

Hong Kong SAR

5

Zhejiang University

China (Mainland)

6

Fudan University

China (Mainland)

7

Peking University

China (Mainland)

8

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

Hong Kong SAR

9

Universiti Malaya (UM)

Malaysia

10

Shanghai Jiao Tong University

China (Mainland)


10) Shanghai Jiao Tong University

 
Shanghai Jiao Tong University

In 10th place, up seven places from last year, is Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The Chinese university earns its highest score for the employer reputation indicator, where it ranks ninth in Asia.

Established in 1896, the university is one of the oldest in mainland China. There are around 16,220 students enrolled in undergraduate programs at the institution, as well as 21,968 post-graduate students.

9) Universiti Malaya (UM)

 

Universiti Malaya (UM)

Malaysia’s only entry in the top 10, the Universiti Malaya (UM) takes ninth place this year, moving up from joint 13th in 2020. This is largely due to their perfect score in the international research network indicator, where they rank joint first in the region.

UM is the oldest university in Malaysia, and is located in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. The university has around 24,770 graduate and postgraduate students, of whom around 15 percent are international.

8) The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

 

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

Remaining in eighth place this year is The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), one of two Hong Kong entries in the top 10. HKUST is joint first in Asia for the ranking indicators of citations per paper, international faculty, and both inbound and outbound exchange, reflecting its role as a truly global institution. 

The university has four main departments: the school of science, school of engineering, school of business and management, and school of humanities and social science (as well as an interdisciplinary program office). It’s also home to the HKUST Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) and the HKUST Institute for Public Policy. 

7) Peking University

Peking University
 

In seventh place, down two spots from last year, is Peking University in Beijing. The school achieves notably high scores in the academic reputation and employer reputation indicators where it ranks joint first and joint second in Asia respectively.

Peking University was founded in 1898 as a replacement for the Guozijian School (Imperial College). Since then, Peking University has been consistently ranked as one of China’s top academic institutions and it is also known for its stunning campus grounds and traditional Chinese architecture. 

6) Fudan University

Fudan University
 

Sixth place is taken by China’s Fudan University, who move up one position this year. The university’s highest score comes in the employer reputation indicator, where they rank seventh in the Asia region.

Fudan University, located in downtown Shanghai, is one of China’s most prestigious and selective institutions. Established in 1905, the university has produced a number of prominent alumni, including the director of the World Bank, Zhang Shengman, as well as Chen Zhongwei, a pioneer in the process of reattaching severed limbs.

5) Zhejiang University

 

Zhejiang University

Into the top five, Zhejiang University is the second-highest ranked university in Mainland China. It achieves impressive scores across all ranking indicators, with perfect scores in four indicators: staff with PhD, international faculty, and inbound and outbound exchange. 

Zhejiang is one of China’s oldest institutions, dating back to as early as 1897. Today it has a strong international outlook, having forged partnerships with more than 180 institutions in more than 30 countries worldwide

4) University of Hong Kong (HKU)

University of Hong Kong (HKU)

Hong Kong’s highest ranked university is the University of Hong Kong (HKU), who lose their third-place spot this year to rank fourth in Asia. It ranks joint first in the region for international faculty, international students, and inbound and outbound exchange.

The university is not only one of the best universities in Asia, but also one of the best in the world, ranking 22nd in the most recent QS World University Rankings. HKU's exceptional academic standards and pioneering research attracts many top-performing scholars from Hong Kong, Mainland China and overseas. 

3) Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
 

Taking the bronze medal spot this year is Nanyang Technological University (NTU), one of two Singaporean universities in the Asia top 10. It’s ranked joint first in Asia for a number of indicators, most notably citations per paper, and third in the region for its international research network.

NTU is embracing digital technologies for better learning and living as part of its Smart Campus vision. It has partnerships with the world’s leading technology companies such as Alibaba, Rolls-Royce, BMW, Volvo, Delta Electronics, and Singtel in many areas of societal importance and impact that includes artificial intelligence, data science, robotics, smart transportation, computing, personalised medicine, healthcare and clean energy.

2) Tsinghua University

 

Tsinghua University

The highest ranked university in mainland China, and the second-highest ranked university in Asia, is Beijing’s Tsinghua University.  While it is not ranked first in any indicator, it places an impressive fifth for academic reputation and second for employer reputation. 

The university is academically organized into 20 schools and 57 departments covering a broad range of subjects, including science, engineering, arts and literature, social sciences, medicine. Xinya College was established in 2014 as the school’s residential liberal arts college as part of a series of reforms to undergraduate education.

1) National University of Singapore (NUS)

 

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Retaining its number one spot in Asia this year is the National University of Singapore (NUS).

It is ranked joint first in the region for academic reputation, as well as for international faculty and inbound exchange. It also ranks 11th in the world in the most recent QS World University Rankings.

NUS has 17 faculties and schools across three campuses. Its transformative education includes a broad-based curriculum underscored by multi-disciplinary courses and cross-faculty enrichment. Over 38,000 students from 100 countries enrich the community with their diverse social and cultural perspectives.

This article was originally published in November 2020 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by
Julia is the Assistant Editor for TopUniversities, publishing articles for students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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