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Asia's Top Young Universities: NTU vs HKUST

Asia’s Top Young Universities: NTU vs HKUST main image

In the new edition of the QS Top 50 Under 50, released this week, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) retained its place as the world’s highest-ranked university under 50 years old, closely followed by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

In general, dynamic young Asian universities dominate the top tier of the QS Top 50 Under 50, which celebrates the world’s leading institutions under 50 years old. NTU and HKUST are followed by South Korea’s KAIST, the City University of Hong Kong, South Korea’s POSTECH, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University – forming an uninterrupted set of six high-achieving young Asian universities.

While Nanyang Technological University has now led the Top 50 Under 50 for four consecutive years, HKUST has previously claimed the top spot, and the two remain closely matched.

Here’s a closer look at how these two ambitious Asian universities compare…


Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

QS World University Content® 2018

Ranked 11th in the world overall in 2018

Ranked 50th in the world by academics and 38th by employers

60th for faculty/studio ratio

57th for research impact (citations per faculty member)

19th for percentage of international faculty members, and 108th for international students 


Ranked 30th in the world

Ranked 52nd in the world by academics and 71st by employers

256th for faculty/student ratio

47th for research impact (citations per faculty member)

17th for percentage of international faculty members, and 87th for international students

Subject strengths*

Ranked joint 51st in the world for arts & humanities

Fourth for engineering & technology

Joint 123rd for life sciences & medicine

17th for natural sciences

Joint 22nd for social sciences & management

Ranked joint 127th in the world for arts and humanities

15th for engineering & technology

Joint 287th for life sciences & medicine

42nd for natural sciences

27th for social sciences & management


The main Yunnan Garden Campus is in western Singapore, close to the Johor Strait which separates Singapore from Malaysia.

About 30 minutes’ drive from central Hong Kong, overlooking the Clear Water Bay Peninsula, in the south-east of Hong Kong.

History & vision

Founded in 1991, with the  of being “a great global university founded on science and technology” and a mission of “nurturing creative and entrepreneurial leaders through a broad education in diverse disciplines”.

Established in 1991, focusing on teaching and research in science, technology, engineering and business studies, with the  of becoming “a leading university with significant international impact and strong local commitment”.

Student community

Around 32,400 students, of which 8,091 are postgraduates.

Approx. 14,200 students (roughly two thirds at undergraduate level).

International tuition fees

Undergraduate students who aren’t subsidized by the will pay S$31,780-36,650 (~US$22,900-26,400) per year for most courses.

Master’s degrees at NTU start at S$7,050 (~US$5,100) a year.

For 2017-18, annual fees for most  are HK$146,000 (~US$18,720).

Fees for postgraduate programs vary; for 2017 admissions an  costs HK$140,000 (~US$17,950) per year.

Singapore currently ranks 14th in the QS Best Student Cities index.

Hong Kong is joint 11th in the QS Best Student Cities.

 *Based on the broad subject areas of the QS World University Content by Subject 2017.


QS World University Content® 2018

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) may outrank Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in the QS World University Content® and the QS Top 50 Under 50 yet again, but both universities have improved upon their positions from last year. When taking a closer look, both institutions perform well in the indicators used to compile the rankings, with each university ranked in the top 300 for each one. NTU achieves higher scores for its reputations among academics and graduate employers, gaining a wider lead on the employer reputation indicator.

For research impact, HKUST is the leader of the two, with NTU ranked only 10 places behind. This is assessed by counting the number of research citations published per faculty member at the university. However, when assessing the ratio of academic staff members to students, NTU has a clear lead – ranked almost 200 places ahead of HKUST at 60th.

Finally, looking at the level of international diversity on each campus, both young universities get high scores, with HKUST in the lead both for its percentage of international faculty members and international students – however, NTU still features in the global top 150 for both indicators.

Subject strengths

If you’re still trying to decide between NTU and HKUST, a look at the QS World University Content by Subject can help narrow down each university’s individual subject strengths. NTU is the leader for four out of the five broad subject areas included in the rankings, ranking only five places behind HKUST for social sciences & management, at joint 22nd to HKUST’s 27th.

The table below lets you see how NTU and HKUST directly compare for each discipline.

NTU vs HKUST in the QS World University Content by Subject 2017




Accounting & finance






Art & design



Biological sciences



Business & management






Communication & media studies



Computer science & information systems



Earth & marine sciences






Education & training



Engineering (chemical)



Engineering (civil)



Engineering (electrical)



Engineering (mechanical)



English language & literature



Environmental sciences















Materials science






Modern languages






Physics & astronomy









Social policy & administration












Both these rival Asian universities are in huge, bustling cities, both of which are considered expensive to live in but offer great economic prosperity and job opportunities. NTU is found in the West Region of Singapore, adjacent to the town of Jurong West, and boasts the largest university campus in the city at 490 acres. HKUST meanwhile is set in the attractive Clear Water Bay area on a 150-acre campus less than 30 minutes’ drive from central Hong Kong.

Looking at the QS Best Student Cities 2017, Hong Kong has a slight lead, ranked joint 11th while Singapore is ranked 14th. When you consider the indicators used to compile the rankings, Singapore beats Hong Kong for Desirability, Employer Activity and Student View, whereas Hong Kong achieves a much higher score for Affordability. Rent in Hong Kong is often considered extortionate, but traveling and eating out can be done at a low cost. Singapore was also ranked as the world’s most expensive city in – something which might alarm students, but if you take tuition fees into account, both Singapore and Hong Kong are much more affordable than other popular study destinations. Both are also highly multicultural, with Hong Kong branded as "Asia's World City", so you should adapt easily to living here no matter where you’re from originally.

Student community

NTU has around 32,400 students, of which 8,091 are postgraduates, while HKUST is much smaller, with less than half the number of students NTU has at approximately 14,200 students (roughly two-thirds of which are undergraduates). There’s no data for the number of international students at NTU, but at HKUST there were 5,060 as of December 2016, which is 35% of the total number, and the university also receives a stronger score than NTU for its percentage of international students.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees at both NTU and HKUST vary depending on your study level, subject and other factors – at NTU, fees are affected by whether students are in receipt of the . These grants, offered by the Ministry of Education, can help both domestic and international students cover a significant amount of their tuition costs, in exchange for agreeing to work for a Singaporean company for at least three years after graduating (or five or six years for medicine and dentistry graduates). The table below gives you an idea of how the most recent figures for tuition fees at each university compare.

Annual international tuition fees at NTU and HKUST in 2017






Undergraduate (without the MOE Grant)

S$31,780-36,650 (~US$23,000-26,500) for most courses.

HK$146,000 (~US$18,720) for most courses.

Undergraduate (with the MOE Grant)

S$17,450-20,000 (~US$12,650-14,500) for most subjects.

N/A: no MOE Grant in Hong Kong


MOE-Grant master’s degree fees range from S$7,050 (~US$5,100) up to S$21,200 (~US$15,360) for most subjects.

Varies between subjects, for example:

MSc in Electrical Engineering: HK$140,000 (~US$17,950)

MA in Social Science: HK$115,000 (~US$14,700).



Financial aid

NTU and HKUST each offer a range of financial aid options to help students fund their studies. For example, at NTU, , and the university has a which students can use to determine their annual financial need. Scholarships offered by NTU include the for outstanding undergraduate students of any nationality, the , which seeks to encourage graduates to study a PhD at NTU, and the for prospective local or international PhD students.

Meanwhile, HKUST’s should be students’ main port of call in searching for financial assistance at the university, with a range of scholarships, bursaries and loans available. Students can use the university’s to find scholarship options relating to their subject and study level, with 171 available at the time of writing. Students could also research their eligibility for a – 890 of these were awarded in the 2015/16 academic year. PhD students could apply for the .

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This article was originally published in September 2014. It was last updated in July 2017 to incorporate the latest ranking results.

Swapnil P, Jessica L & 38 others saved this
Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of, Laura oversees the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edits the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributes to market research reports including How Do Students Use Content?

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