On March 16, the Times Higher Education’s (THE) 2017 Asia University rankings were released. KAIST has achieved eighth out of other prestigious universities in Asia, which is the highest position for universities in Korea for this year.
After separating out from the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) rankings in 2010, the THE rankings have been publishing annual ranking reports of research-intensive universities using 13 indicators, which are further grouped into five areas: teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and industry income. Currently, it publishes a global ranking and three regional rankings: Asia, Latin America, and BRICS and Developing Economies.
The top three ranks for this year’s Asia University Rankings were occupied by the National University of Singapore, Peking University, and Tsinghua University in Singapore, China, and China respectively. Meanwhile, for Korean universities, Seoul National University (SNU) and Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) placed ninth and tenth right after KAIST. While KAIST maintained its ranking of eight and occasionally tenth since 2013, this year is the first time KAIST placed highest out of all Korean universities. For other Korean universities, a total of 15 universities including KAIST, SNU, and POSTECH placed within the top 100 universities — an increase from 13 last year. Meanwhile, Korea’s neighboring countries China and Japan have had contrasting results with 25 Chinese universities placing within top 100 — a steady increase — and 12 Japanese universities placing within top 100 — a steady decrease.
While KAIST placing as the top university in Korea and the overall increase of the number of universities in the top 100 and may seem like a success for KAIST and Korean universities in general, compared to previous achievements by Korea’s top universities, the recent trend is worrying for Korean higher education. Unlike KAIST’s steady rank in the past few years, SNU’s rank has been decreasing since 2014 when SNU placed fourth. POSTECH in the past few years have had fluctuating ranks from as high as fifth to as low as eleventh. Overall, this year’s THE rankings may serve as both an acknowledgement to the efforts Korean universities have made and a warning of upcoming global changes to higher education.