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Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has topped the Times Higher Education 150 Under 50 Rankings 2016 – a ranking of the best universities under the age of 50 – for the second year in a row, while the UK has the most world-class young institutions in the top 150.
EPFL held on to pole position in the table despite fierce competition from universities in East Asia.
Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), founded just 25 years ago, came second, making it Asia’s top young institution for the first time in the ranking’s five-year history. This follows Singapore’s success in last year’s THE World University Rankings, in which the National University of Singapore was crowned Asia’s best university.
The rest of the top five in the young universities list was filled by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Netherlands’ Maastricht University and South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Bertil Andersson, NTU president, cited the institution’s continued ability to attract top established and young researchers; innovative approaches to teaching, with a goal of designing half of degree courses for “flipped classroom learning” within the next five years; and “good blend of East and West” as reasons for its rapid success.
“Teaching in English makes it easy for NTU to attract international faculty or to collaborate with many other world-class universities as English is a common platform for us,” he said.
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He added that many other Asian universities are also highly driven towards academic excellence and research, as demonstrated in this ranking, and if this trend continues “Asia could well become a major driving force for the world’s knowledge production and innovation by 2050”.
However, despite Asia’s success in this year’s extended top 150 list, the UK is the most-represented country with 25 institutions, led by the University of Dundee in 16th place – although eight of these will be too old to feature in the list next year, and a further five will drop out within the subsequent two years.
Meanwhile, Australia has more universities in the top 100 (16) than any other nation, with half of these sitting in the top 50. In contrast with the UK, the foundation date of its representatives is more evenly spread across every decade from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Andrew Norton, director of the higher education programme at thinktank the Grattan Institute, said that there are strong parallels between UK and Australian higher education policy but that Australia has “much more consistent pro-migration policies for international students”.
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He added that while older universities in Australia still receive the majority of government research funding, the “aggressive” recruitment of fee-paying international students by institutions across the board has “financed more research than could have occurred through dedicated research funding alone” and elevated the universities’ global profiles.
He also cited income-contingent loans for domestic postgraduate fee-paying students in Australia since 2002 as having helped to create a “strong market” for many institutions.