Concerns about academic freedom are weighing on the reputations of Hong Kong’s universities, only two of which remain in the top 100 of a global ranking this year.
In the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2015, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has fallen into the 51st-60th band, down from 43rd last year, Apple Daily reported Thursday.
It is the first time HKU, once ranked at 36th, has been absent from the top 50 since the annual survey was first done five years ago.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has fallen into the 71st-80th band from 51st-60th last year, the lowest in the past four years.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, which had been ranked in the 81st-90th band for three consecutive years, dropped out of the top 100 this year.
A spokesman from Times Higher Education said inappropriate suppression by Hong Kong police of participants of the Umbrella Movement late last year highlighted challenges in the course of the city’s integration with China.
That has made academics worry about whether academic freedom in the universities can still be maintained.
The rankings may be interpreted in Hong Kong with uneasiness, the spokesman said, and were not a good omen for the city, as an excellent reputation for its universities is a prerequisite for a place to attract global talent.
He said it would be worrisome if Hong Kong loses its unique status as a longtime bridge between the East and the West.
The newspaper quoted Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-man as saying it is the Hong Kong government that has damaged the reputations of local universities, not the pro-democracy movement.
Chan said the Umbrella movement was highly praised internationally.
The ranking, published Wednesday, is based on opinions from nearly 10,000 academics polled in December and January.
HKU said the survey results are a worthwhile reference. HKUST said it is common to see rankings move up or down.
Harvard University retained first place from a year ago, while Cambridge rose to second from fourth. Oxford jumped to third from fifth last year.
All the top 10 universities are in the United States or Britain.
Among Asian universities, the University of Tokyo ranked highest, at 12th, one spot lower than last year, followed by the National University of Singapore, at 24th, three positions lower than last year.
Tsinghua University leapt 10 spots to 26th, and Peking University jumped nine to 32nd. Perhaps the academics surveyed are less concerned now about academic freedom in Beijing.
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