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Chinese Universities in the 2014 QS University Rankings: BRICS

Chinese Universities in the 2014 QS University Rankings: BRICS main image

**Click here to discover the top 10 universities in China in 2016. 

Universities in China continue to dominate the QS University Rankings: BRICS, a ranking dedicated to highlighting leading institutions in the five BRICS countries. In the 2014 edition, Chinese universities take 71 of the top 200 spots, including six of the top 10 – convincingly positioning China as the current higher education leader within the competitive BRICS set.

The very top spot in the ranking is claimed by Tsinghua University, followed by Peking University in second place, the University of Science and Technology of China (4th), Fudan University (5th), Nanjing University (6th), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (8th), Zhejiang University (11th), Beijing Normal University (14th) and Xi'an Jiaotong University (19th).

Since the 1990s, China has made investment in higher education a major national priority, focusing on increasing participation rates and producing world-class research. It now has the world’s largest higher education system, having overtaken the US in 2007, and its student enrolments grew by an incredible 660% between 1998 and 2010. Investment in R&D has averaged almost 20% annual growth since 2008, on track to total more than one trillion yuan in 2014.

Among the best-known initiatives within the country’s higher education drive is the establishment of the C9 League, a group of elite research-focused universities envisioned as becoming an equivalent to the US Ivy League or UK Russell Group. These C9 institutions indeed perform particularly well in the BRICS ranking; six are included in the top 10, one in 11th place, and just two lag a little behind the rest of the group – Xi'an Jiaotong University is 19th and Harbin Institute of Technology 27th.

Below is a closer look at how universities in China compare to their BRICS counterparts on each of the eight indicators used to compile the ranking.

International reputation

The first two indicators consider institutions’ international reputation among both academics and graduate employers, assessed through two major global surveys. Reputation is a strong point for the leading Chinese institutions; Peking University is rated top among BRICS institutions in both the academic and employer surveys, and Tsinghua second.

When the other indicators are considered, however, this order is reversed, thanks to Tsinghua University’s stronger scores on most of the other criteria. The remaining C9 members also enjoy strong global reputations among both academics and recruiters, as do many of the other Chinese universities featured. To see how individual institutions are rated, log in or register to use the interactive ranking table.

Academic staff

The next two indicators assess faculty/student ratio (number of full-time academic staff relative to number of students enrolled) and percentage of academic staff with a PhD. Given China’s high levels of national investment in higher education, it’s perhaps surprising to find no Chinese entries within the BRICS top 10 for faculty/student ratio. This may reflect the difficulties of increasing staff levels quickly enough to match the breakneck pace of student enrolment growth.

Tsinghua University and Peking University are again China’s two top representatives in this indicator (16th and 28th respectively). But in fact most of China’s highest scorers for faculty/student ratio are not C9 members. The National University of Defense Technology, Northwestern Polytechnical University, Shanghai International Studies University, Beihang University, the University of International Business and Economics and East China University of Science and Technology are all within the BRICS top 50 in this respect.

The picture represented in the staff with a PhD indicator again suggests universities in China still have some catching up to do, with system growth outpacing the speed of high-level qualification attainment. No Chinese universities are within the top 20 on this indicator, which tends to be dominated by universities in India and Brazil. China’s highest entrant is the University of Science and Technology of China (24th), followed by Fudan University, Renmin (People’s) University of China, Tsinghua University, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Nanjing University, all in the top 50.


Given sustained high levels of national investment in research, it’s no surprise to see universities in China dominating the indicator which assesses the average number of papers published per faculty member. Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University take the top two scores, and this is also an indicator which allows some of China’s more specialized science and technology institutions to shine. The University of Science and Technology of China and Dalian University of Technology are both within the top 10, and joined in the top 20 by Harbin Institute of Technology, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Beihang University, Tsinghua University, South China University of Technology and the University of Science and Technology Beijing.

The ranking also considers research citation levels, as a way of providing insights into each university’s impact within the global research community. This is another area in which universities in China are playing catch-up, with hugely increased production levels yet to be matched by an equally impressive level of influence.

However, there are signs that China is moving in the right direction here, at least within the context of the BRICS group. Of the 71 Chinese universities featured, almost all have improved or maintained their performance in this indicator since the last edition. The top entrants this time are Fudan University (4th for citations per paper), Nankai University (6th), University of Science and Technology of China (7th) and Peking University (8th).


Finally, the ranking considers percentages of students and faculty members who are classed as ‘international’, reflecting universities’ success in attracting students and academics from further afield.  Like the other BRICS countries, China has been focusing on international recruitment of both academics and students, and has set some ambitious targets. The Ministry of Education has said it aims to have 500,000 international students enrolled in Chinese higher education by 2020, almost double the 2011 number.

While the best-known comprehensive Chinese universities do well in the two internationalization indicators, these measures also serve to highlight the growing global prestige of some of the country’s more specialized institutions. The country’s top scorer for both international faculty members and international students is the foreign language specialist Beijing Foreign Studies University, which ranks 4th in the BRICS group for international students and 6th for international faculty. Shanghai International Studies University, similarly focused on languages and cultural studies, also ranks well here: 15th for international faculty and 16th for international students.

Textiles specialist Donghua University is 5th for international students, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine 8th and the University of International Business and Economics 14th. East China Normal University, which partnered with New York University on its newly established Shanghai campus and which boasts strong relationships with a number of other prestigious universities in the US and Europe, ranks 12th in this indicator.

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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Please I want to study at China please help me thank you.

Hi Boanu. We have a guide to studying abroad in China here:

Hope this is helpful!

The universities in china are well organised interms of given international student a clear upportunities. So being in china to study is nice,more especially to those from africa.