A new leader emerged this week in the QS ranking of the world’s top 50 universities that are less than 50 years old. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), one of the youngest universities of all, takes the accolade after moving up from third position in last year’s inaugural Top 50 Under 50 ranking.
HKUST was already the leader in the QS University Rankings: Asia, also published this week. Established only in 1991, it has shown its quality against much older institutions, rising seven places to 33rd in the overall QS World University Rankings in 2012.
The latest QS Top 50 Under 50 sees HKUST replace a fellow Hong Kong university in the top spot. Last year’s leader, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is now too old to qualify, having reached its half-century along with four others from the 2012 Top 50 Under 50. The universities of York, East Anglia and Victoria, and King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals are all no longer eligible for inclusion.
Partly because of the loss of these five 50-year-olds, 29 of the universities in the new ranking have moved up since last year. However, the progress made by these young institutions is genuine: those in the Under 50 ranking have, on average, risen 2.7 places in the QS World University Rankings in the last 12 months.
Second-placed Nanyang Technological University is of the same age as HKUST, although another university had occupied the same site previously. The Singaporean institution has moved up from fourth place, having also climbed in the world’s top 50 universities in the 2012 QS World University Rankings.
All 50 universities in the new Top 50 Under 50 fall within the top 350 in the QS World University Rankings, despite the advantages enjoyed by historic universities in such comparisons. New entrants this year are Argentina’s Universidad Austral, a private university based in Buenos Aires; Brunel University, in London; King Abdul Aziz University, in Jeddah; Rome's Universitá degli Studi di Roma - Tor Vergata; Linköping University, in Sweden; and Germany’s Universität Bremen. All have been moving up the overall world rankings.
The ranking is guaranteed further upheaval next year, when Warwick, Lancaster and Macquarie universities will all be lost from the top 20 as they celebrate their 50th anniversaries. The number of UK universities will continue to decrease in coming years, giving universities in Asia the opportunity to further tighten their grip on the leading places.