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Asia's Top Universities
Some think excellence cannot be quantified,
but Asiaweek's third annual survey
builds on an already extensive database

By Cesar Bacani

After three years compiling the first and only regional listing of Asia's best universities, we like to think that Asiaweek has become something of an authority on the subject. We now have an extensive databank on everything from faculty qualifications to research output to student-per-teacher ratios to data on Internet access of 114 leading multi-disciplinary institutions and science and technology schools across Asia. Wondering how the top schools are faring amid the Asian Crisis? Click. They're reviving. The leading 65 universities spent a combined $15 billion last school year. In 1997, when the economic turmoil forced budgetary cutbacks, total spending by the universities in the ranking's first 65 places reached just $13.7 billion.   >>more

W O R L D  C L A S S
Multi Disciplinary
Tohoku University
Kyoto University
Seoul National University
University of Hong Kong
Taiwan University
National University of Singapore
Chinese University of Hong Kong
University of New South Wales
Yonsei University
University of Melbourne
Science and Technology
Korea Advanced Inst. of Science & Tech.
Pohang University of Science & Tech.
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

Part of the increase went to faculty salaries and benefits - a total of $4.5 billion in 1998 compared with $3.9 billion in 1997. Which schools pay the most? Click, click. In 1998, the median salary of teachers at the University of Hong Kong was in excess of $182,000 a year. Others in the SAR were not far behind, with median annual salaries of $155,500 to $174,500. The highest-paying non-Hong Kong school: Japan's Tohoku University at $136,780 a year. What about Internet access? Click, click, click. Thirteen multi-disciplinary universities and four technology schools boast direct lines with a capacity of at least 100 megabits per second. Tohoku trumps everyone with its two humungous 100 mbps connections.

Numbers, numbers. Like the U.S. News & World Report in America and the Financial Times in Britain, Asiaweek aims to measure the academic excellence of universities by quantifying their achievements. In our first survey in 1997, we sent questionnaires to 78 schools. Last year, we asked 95 multi-disciplinary universities and 41 science and technology institutes to participate. (We split the list into two to avoid comparing apples with oranges - specialized schools have a narrower focus and accept fewer students than their broad-spectrum counterparts.) This year, the survey's universe has grown even bigger. We asked 149 Asian universities - 104 multi-disciplinary and 45 science and technology - to fill up an eight-page questionnaire. Seven of ten decided to participate, an improvement from last year's 65.4% response rate.

And Asia's No. 1 multi-disciplinary institution of higher learning is (click, click)... Tohoku University. Fellow Japanese imperial school Kyoto University came in second. Universities from South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia round out the top ten, which for the first time includes Yonsei University in Seoul. In the specialized list, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology took the top spot. Another Korean school, Pohang University of Science and Technology, is in second place. The Tokyo Institute of Technology and two campuses of the Indian Institute of Technology (one in Delhi and the other in Madras) complete the first five.

What happened to the University of Tokyo, the multi-disciplinary topnotcher in 1997 and 1998? Hasumi Shigehiko, who became university president last year, decided to withdraw from the survey. "As you know, Dr. Gerhard Casper, president of Stanford University, has expressed deep reservations about similar rankings in the United States," he wrote us. "I share Dr. Casper's position, for I am also 'extremely skeptical that the quality of a university... can be measured statistically.'" (Stanford is ranked No. 4 in the latest U.S. News & World survey.) Also opting out are 19 mainland Chinese universities, including Peking University, because of political and other issues (see story page 61).

Still, we maintain that statistics are as important as subjective judgments in evaluating a university. A school's achievements can and should be quantified, and compared with those of its peers, if only to assure students and parents - and the taxpayers who often fund them - that the university is being run as it should. "It's good for the government to see the result of its investment," says Vice-Chancellor Lim Pin of the National University of Singapore. "Your survey also attracts collaboration with other institutions because it is conducted independently, and there is peer-assessment."

For the 1999 ranking, 80% of the total score is allocated to quality of students (25%), quality of teachers (25%), research output (20%) and financial resources (10%). To ensure comparability, all money figures were converted into PPP dollars, which take into account purchasing power in each country. The remaining 20% is devoted to a subjective evaluation by the universities themselves. Each was asked to rate its peers on a scale of 1 to 5 based on their judgment of the school's overall excellence. We believe we have ranked Asia's best universities in a fair and objective manner. Read on to find out why.

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