Tsinghua University in China better ranked in engineering than US MIT
China’s prestigious Tsinghua University has bested the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become the top school in the world for engineering research, according to a new U.S. News & World Report ranking, in a development that has renewed debate within China over the country’s educational system.
Tsinghua, which is often called “China’s MIT” and is renowned as one of the country’s top schools for studying sciences, came in first among 250 universities ranked by U.S. News in a report released this week, with Cambridge-based MIT ranking second.
Each school’s score is based on its number of publications and citations as well as its global and regional research reputation. U.S. News has released rankings of U.S. colleges for more than 30 years, but 2015 marks only the second year that it has scored universities across the globe.
In China, where school rankings are closely followed by the media and the public alike, some trumpeted Tsinghua’s victory as a sign that Chinese institutions of higher learning are gaining ground on their foreign counterparts, in a sign of Beijing’s growing global clout.
“Tsinghua’s progress is a microcosm of China’s rise,” one user wrote Thursday on China’s Weibo microblogs, while another exulted: “Not only Tsinghua alums but also all Chinese should be proud.”
Xu Haiyun, a Tsinghua graduate and chief engineer for the China Urban Construction Design and Research Institute, told the state-run China Daily newspaper that in recent years, China has “constructed the most tall buildings, bridges and railways in the world, and we educated the greatest number of engineering students, all of which requires advancement in engineering technology.”
Yet not everyone was so optimistic. This week’s Nobel win by Tu Youyou has reignited debate over China’s educational system, with the pharmacologist’s lack of traditional academic credentials prompting soul-searching within the country’s scientific research community. Ms. Tu is known in China as a “three withouts” scientist, as she has no PhD, no education abroad and no title of yuanshi, or academic.
Likewise, some in China remained sceptical that Tsinghua’s latest rankings win was an affirmation of China’s academic system, arguing that it reflected only the quantity of papers published by the university’s researchers rather than the quality or creativity of their work. “For those of you who say the ranking is ‘pretty good:’ If your child had the opportunity to go to either MIT or Tsinghua, which one would you choose?” one Weibo user wrote.
Terry Crawford, CEO and co-founder of InitialView, a Beijing-based start-up that interviews international students on behalf of U.S. universities, said that “a significant amount” of Chinese students his company interacts with are applying to engineering programs in the U.S. – and that many of them cite China’s limits on information as a major reason that they are looking to study abroad.
“I think we are sensing a shift where top students feel like they’re not able to get the information they need to be their best,” Mr. Crawford said. “As a result, I feel like any top student in China would still choose MIT.”