Universities from the UK and the US should be concerned by their competitors in the East, experts warn, as the latest world university rankings reveal Asian institutions clawing their way up the table.

The top universities have also been accused of becoming "complacent and lacking efficiency and innovation," particularly in comparison to their Eastern counterparts.

Korea, Singapore and China all saw their universities climb, while many UK and US institutions plummeted.

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-13, said the huge amount of investment in Asia is starting to pay off.

"In the rankings this year we are clearly witnessing the fallout from the heavy public funding cuts to both US and UK universities," he told The Huffington Post UK.

"While the sun rises in the East, England faces a perfect storm: falling public investment in teaching and research; hostile visa conditions discouraging the world's top academics and students from coming here.

"The 'golden triangle' of Oxford, Cambridge and the London universities has held firm, but outside of this elite, the UK's universities have almost without question tumbled down the rankings.

"In stark contrast, the leading universities from across the Asia-Pacific region, which have benefited from solid financial backing, saw significant improvements."

China's two top 200 institutions are on the rise, as are Singapore's, while all of the Republic of Korea's universities have climbed the table. Asia's number one university, the University of Tokyo, ranks at number 27.

Karan Khemka, head of the International Education Practice at the Parthenon group, wrote in the THE supplement: "The consensus is that emerging-market universities will chip away at the historic dominance of Western universities."

Baty adds he does not doubt the Eastern universities will continue their climb to the top.

"In this field, money talks, and world class universities need money. In tough times, many Asian nations recognise the value of pumping resources into top universities to boost economic growth and economic power.
 
"This seems to be working, as these new tables show real, empirical evidence of improvement.
 
"And the investment in China for example is being backed by reform too - with the importing of Western pedagogy, for example, to promote free enquiry and a more questioning approach to education.
 
"If the money is backed by serious reform, and also perhaps more autonomy for the universities, there is no reason not to believe that Chinese could before long occupy some of the very top spots in these tables."

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Jemma Davies, project director of The Student World, says the company has seen a "huge uplift" in those considering studying in Eastern universities.

"Usually countries like the USA and Canada are top of the priority list for students," Davies told HuffPost UK, "Now they are walking out of our events talking about Asia as an option and are surprised with what Eastern countries have to offer.

"Eastern universities are becoming more serious about recruiting from the UK and have made themselves much more visible to UK students to get them to consider studying with them.

"Graduates are in a competitive market when it comes to getting on the job ladder. Studying abroad will certainly stand them out of the crowd by making them culturally aware, develop language skills, living in another country will see you having to manage daily life challenges and you'll make friends from around the world."

Eastern universities are also becoming favourable destinations for international students - who might have previously considered the UK.

In 2010, more than 8,000 Indian students enrolled to study medicine in China, with consultants estimating 70% of mobile Indian medical students would opt for China over the UK. The country has upped the incentive for foreign students to study there; earlier this year, Shanghai announced a scholarship and language-training programme to pull in 70,000 international students by 2015.

Dirk Van Damme, head of innovation and measuring progress division at the OECD, said:

"Academic excellence is gradually shifting away from the 20th century centres. The concern is those at the absolute summit of the rankings have become complacent and lack efficiency and innovation. They rely on their reputation and unchallenged capacity to raise resources."

Asian countries are also producing their own, homegrown talent. A report released in July by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed around 40% of young degree-holders in leading countries will come from China and India by 2020. The United States and some European Union countries will produce about 25%.

Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, confirmed the Eastern drive to establish itself on the international stage of higher education, saying: "Some Asian countries, most notably China, have started to host a higher number of international students.

"However, the students hosted at campuses in China are likely not largely the same pool as those who would typically go to the US or UK for study."

Despite this, the USA arm of the British Council is warning the Western sector it should sit up and take note of the Eastern competition. Richard Everitt, director of education at the council told HuffPost UK:

"Although the UK and US are home to most of the top universities in the world, there is a huge amount of growth taking place in higher education globally. There is a global competition for talent, not just for students but also for professors and researchers.

"Any rankings will tell you that the US and UK are home to the top institutions in the world. However, demand for higher education is so great and new models have altered the playing field, so to speak. Western institutions absolutely have to be concerned about competition from Asian universities."

On top of this, Everitt adds online learning and transnational education models are introducing new opportunities for students around the world. So the UK's universities have plenty to keep them on their toes.

For a full listing of the world university rankings, go to the Times Higher Education site.

SEE ALSO:

US Universities Trump UK - What Are They Offering That We Can't?

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