Why It Matters

No small feat for NUS, NTU

In a global ranking released on Tuesday, Singapore's two oldest universities made it into the top 13. The National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) took the 12th and 13th spots in the World University Ranking.

Last year, the same ranking by London-based education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), placed NUS and NTU 22nd and 39th.

QS said it assessed research citation differently this year, to even out a bias created by a large volume of citations from some fields, such as life sciences. But it noted that NUS and NTU would have improved their placings even without the change, as both did well in other areas like academic and employer reputation.

The survey is one of many each year. After the first global ranking - Shanghai Rankings - was published in 2003, others have evaluated universities by region and subjects. Used as global benchmarks, they have been criticised for reasons such as methodologies that may let institutions take shortcuts to raise scores. But despite this, the rankings are not ignored. They play a growing role in governments' higher education funding decisions and even immigration laws in countries such as Denmark.

They also influence partnerships in research and academic programmes, and help to boost the standing of universities among academics.

At a time of higher student mobility, many may consider rankings when choosing where to study.

It is no small feat for NUS and NTU to rank so high. They beat the likes of Yale, Johns Hopkins and King's College London, and are the only ones in Asia to do so. Universities worldwide are racing to attract top talent, and their performance is a testament to the Republic's investment in higher education.

The two have climbed the league tables over the years, and the QS ranking is significant, placing both among the top of a list dominated by Western institutions. This is good for NUS and NTU, as they seek the best researchers, professors and students not just for themselves but also for Singapore.

The results will help to improve their standing in the world, and show that they can hold their own among the best.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2015, with the headline 'No small feat for NUS, NTU'. Print Edition | Subscribe