Asian universities made a strong showing in this year’s ‘100 Under 50’ top university rankings, published by Times Higher Education. More than a dozen Asian institutions made the list, including South Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in first place.

The ’100 Under 50’ list showcases the rising stars of global higher education. It employs the same 13 indicators that the London periodical applies to its World University Rankings. However, by limiting the field to institutions that are less than 50 years old and applying less weight to reputation for reputation’s sake, the list shines a spotlight on young and dynamic institutions with promising futures.

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POSTECH was one of many Asian universities and institutes to feature prominently on this list. Another South Korean institute – the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – took third place. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology took fourth, and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University eighth, for a total of four East Asian institutions in the top 10.

In all, 13 East Asian universities made the top 100, representing five different nations. Taiwan took five top 100 places, fronted by National Sun Yat-Sen University (37th); Hong Kong took a total of four; and, in addition to the institutes from South Korea and Singapore that were already mentioned, Japan’s University of Tsukuba (49) also made the top half of the list.

Unsurprisingly, Australian universities also fared very well with 13 universities in the top 100. Queensland University of Technology led the charge in 26th spot, with Macquarie University (36), The University of Newcastle (40), University of Wollongong (43), and the University of South Australia (48) also in the top half of the table.

Asian universities’ emerging competitive edge
To be fair, the rise of Asian institutes of higher education has been in the works for several years. Yang Wei, chairman of the Chinese C9 League of universities, says he expects the trend to continue for another five or 10 years more. He cites China’s push to internationalize higher education as well as the government’s pledge to invest 4 percent of nation’s GDP into education as primary drivers.

Times Higher Education quoted the president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (tied for 34), Timothy W. Tong. He acknowledges that older universities’ traditions, well-established campus culture and strong support base are difficult to compete with. However, he notes that there are other factors at play – especially in today’s markets:

In today’s rapidly changing ­globalised economy, it is perhaps more important for a university to have a clear vision, a strategic focus, a dynamic culture, strong leadership and a supportive ­government.

No doubt, older universities dominate traditional top-100 lists. Legacy often eclipses other important indicators of a university’s success. For the youngest institutes, standing out requires generating results, such as high graduate employment rates, professional skills development and research with real-world applications. Of course, in today’s competitive jobs market, many students would eagerly trade a bit of clout and prestige to increase their odds of landing a high-powered career.

See the full 100 Under 50 2013 list on the THE website.