These are the best universities in emerging economies

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stephen Hall, Writer, Formative Content


  • Times Higher Education’s university rankings for 2023 have been released.
  • China is the most-represented emerging economy in the list of top 200 universities.
  • There are 25 new African universities in the rankings, while Saudi Arabia and UAE have also made significant progress.

There has been “clear evidence of a “great global levelling up” in the world ranking of universities in recent years, according to Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at Times Higher Education (THE).

“In 2018, universities in countries classified as emerging economies by the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group represented 34% of all universities listed in the THE World University Rankings. In the 2022 edition, they represented 42%,” he says.

But how do emerging economies fare in THE’s 2023 list of top universities?

China best universities rankings

In its list of top universities for 2023, THE ranked China as the most-represented emerging economy country, with 11 universities in the top 200. Tsinghua University, in Beijing, took first place with a world ranking of 16th.

Directives like the Double First Class programme in China, a proposal which aims to create world-class universities and disciplines by the end of 2050, have helped to push the university up the table.

Tsinghua’s 20 schools and 54 departments cover disciplines in art, economics, education, engineering, history, management, medicine, law, literature, philosophy and sciences. Alumni include two Nobel prize winners, physicists Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang.

The university ranked 5th worldwide in THE’s ranking for clinical, pre-clinical and health studies.

The institution also ranks in 9th place globally for reputation. “In higher education, reputation really matters. It helps attract inward investment, it helps draw in quality partners for strategic advancement,” Baty says.

“And, perhaps above all else, it is key to attracting talent, among both academics and of course the many millions of prospective students who have more and more choice of where to study. It is subjective, and it is not always fair, but it has real currency with tangible effects.”

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Overall, China has nine universities in the top 100 for reputation, up from seven last year. Peking University moves up from 15th to 13th place. Shanghai Jiao Tong University has risen from joint 50th position to 28th, and Fudan University rises to 39th place.

Second on the overall list of emerging economy institutions is Peking University, in Beijing, which is a member of the C9 league, similar to the Ivy League in the US.

The institution has established joint degree programmes with Cornell University, Yale University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Paris School of International Affairs, Waseda University, Seoul National University and The University of Tokyo to encourage international student exchanges, according to THE.

Outside of Beijing, Shanghai’s Fudan university ranked 3rd on the list, with a world ranking of 51st place. Shanghai Jiao Tong University closely follows, with a ranking of 52nd globally.

Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou, was ranked 5th for emerging countries, and 67th globally.

African universities rise up the list

There are 25 new African universities in the ranking and Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Mauritius are all represented for the first time. The University of Cape Town is the highest placed university, in 160th place. There are now 17 African countries in the ranking in total, compared with nine in 2018.

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Saudi Arabia and UAE make significant progress

THE found Saudi Arabia has had the biggest increase in overall score since last year (50 compared with 45). Since 2018, THE found the average tally has risen by 17 points. The country ranks particularly well on the international pillar, and on international staff categories. King Abdulaziz University is the country’s highest ranked university in 101st place worldwide.

UAE saw a similar rise, with an average overall score of 44.4, up from 40.0 last year.

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