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Hong Kong Excels in University Report Card

Ben Sowter
Ben Sowter, Head of the QS Intelligence Unit

The newly released 2016 report by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a London-headquartered global higher education analyst, finds that Hong Kong universities have “entrenched their position among the region’s finest.” Four of the city’s universities rank among the region’s top 10. “No nation or territory has more universities than Hong Kong in the top 10,” according to the report.

Its authors noted as a “highlight in a series of stellar performances” the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) status as one of the top two institutions in Asia. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) “edges towards the top three, rising to fourth place,” while the City University of Hong Kong has also improved its position, moving from ninth to seventh. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in eighth spot, “remains among the region’s very best.” The report also notes a “quantum leap” on the part of Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, from 142nd place to a shared spot at 109th.

“No nation or territory has more universities than Hong Kong in the top 10.”

International Attributes

Much of the HKU’s success is attributed to its “singularly successful internationalisation.” The university achieved the perfect weighted score of 100.0 in five of QS’ 10 metrics: academic reputation, proportion of international faculty, proportion of international students, proportion of inbound exchange students, and proportion of outbound exchange students.

“In fact, all seven of Hong Kong’s featured universities attained the benchmark score for international faculty, implying that Hong Kong is one of the region’s most desirable destinations for academics seeking to work abroad,” the report found.

It added that the HKUST is the only university of the seven to achieve the benchmark 100.0 score in the new measurement for staff with PhD – a metric that assesses the extent to which universities are hiring staff with expertise in their field.

Campus life at HKUST offers a range of engaging opportunities
Students and academics alike are drawn to Hong Kong’s leading universities

Ben Sowter, Head of QS’s Intelligence Unit, said that internationalisation is important for two reasons. “The first is that higher education is now an international enterprise, not a national one. The best universities are partly so because of their ability to attract top students and academics from around the world to contribute to the intellectual life of their institution. High scores for internationalisation indicate a successful commitment to becoming a world-class institution. The second is because of what it says about a university’s desirability as a study and research destination to both students and staff worldwide.”

Academic Environment Valued

While Hong Kong’s universities undoubtedly have an advantage for this metric – due to students from the Chinese mainland, a key inbound mobility market – “the results still indicate that the academic environment and student culture there is one that appeals to both Chinese students, and students from the wider region, alike.”

The HKU’s strong score for academic reputation directly comes about as a result of its excellent performance in QS surveys of academics.

“Undoubtedly, HKU is perceived as being of such high regard in academic circles due to its strong research culture,” Mr Sowter said. “Combined with full marks for our international faculty metric, it is clear that overseas academics see the research environment at HKU as conducive to their success.”

Hong Kong’s overall results, Mr Sowter continued, show that the city’s tertiary offering creates the type of environment that academics value. “This is due to a number of factors – research funding opportunities, available resources, a history of successful research at an institution – as well as extraneous factors like the quality of living a city can offer.”

Key Partnerships

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is a dynamic, international research institution

Post-graduate partnerships with prestigious overseas institutions also buoy Hong Kong’s ranking. The Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA Program, for instance, has earned the Financial Times’ number one ranking for six years.

Research from the HKUST’s State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience has made groundbreaking discoveries on the molecular biology of neural processes related to aging and cancer; and the development of drugs to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Its scientists have also produced fundamental research in solid-state lighting devices, as well as energy research for smart green cities and a low carbon economy. 

The HKU's Andy Hor, Chair Professor in Metallic Chemistry & Materials and Vice President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), said collaborations are established at different levels.

“At the institution level, we have partnerships with top universities such as University of Cambridge, University of Toronto, King’s College London, and University College London, just to name a few, and we are constantly looking to strengthen and expand our partnerships,” he said.

Important Research

Andy Hor
Professor Andy Hor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Hong Kong

Professor Hor also pointed to the noteworthy research coming out of the HKU, in fields including organic light-emitting materials, chemical biology, infectious diseases, neuropsychology, power electronics and urban laboratory.

“Every faculty has its strengths that are recognised at the highest international levels,” he said. “Many of these are advanced under the university’s Strategic Research Themes or Emerging Strategic Research Themes. These are designed to maximise the impact of our research by focusing development on research areas of proven and potential strength in issues critical to advancing Hong Kong, mainland China and the rest of the world.”

Professor Hor noted, however, that the university “does not set its goals or formulate strategies to aim for perfect scores” in ranking tables. “Our academic and institutional strategies aim to develop HKU into an internationally leading university on three major fronts – education, research and knowledge exchange.”

For the HKU, he added, the best is yet to come. “We are moving from a university of strong fundamentals and high academic repute to one that will channel more resources to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. This will only make our research stronger and more impactful to our community and economy."

Related Links
Chinese University of Hong Kong
City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Lingnan University
Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) (for the full Asia rankings)
University of Hong Kong

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