China has the best national environment for higher education institutions in Asia, according to rankings released recently by higher education consulting company Quacquarelli Symonds.
The 2016 Higher Education System Strength rankings placed China at eighth worldwide, followed by South Korea, which ranked ninth. Japan was 10th.
It was China’s best performance of the past three years and is also the first time the mainland surpassed Italy and Japan in the strength of higher education systems.
Last year, Italy and Japan were at the eighth and ninth, while China was 11th.
Some 50 countries and regions on six continents were ranked this year. The United States continued to lead the world in higher education, and four European countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, also entered the Top 10, according to QS.
The rankings represent a new attempt to put university performance rankings alongside other metrics to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a country or region’s overall higher education environment, QS said.
The latest QS ranking aims to measure the factors that make a nation’s higher education system more likely to succeed. It is based on four criteria: system strength, access, flagship and economy.
China’s strongest score came in the economy metric, where it ranked second worldwide, with a weighted score of 99.9, only 0.1 behind the US, QS said.
In addition, China has made improvements in all other metrics, including equity of education, educational investment and top universities, or flagships.
“The big impact of efficient investment in higher education in China has empowered many Chinese universities to become world-class top universities,” said Christina Yan Zhang, the China director for QS.
Last year, the Chinese government added building world-class universities and subjects to its list of top priorities in education. Zhang said the government’s commitment would not only help its universities excel internationally, but also lay a solid foundation for the country’s economy to become the world’s largest.
With 37 million students studying at about 2,900 colleges and universities across China in 2015, the country’s higher education system is one of the largest in the world. One in five college students worldwide is in China, according to a quality report released by the Chinese Ministry of Education last month.
Spending on higher education has increased greatly in recent years, as has the number of educators, the amount of real estate and teaching resources, the report said.
“The fast development of higher education in China has offered more ordinary Chinese people the opportunity to attend college,” said Wu Yan, director of the Higher Education Evaluation Center, an institute under the ministry.