Asian universities could overtake their western counterparts within two decades, say the compilers of QS University Rankings: Asia.
HKUST tops the rankings ahead of National University of Singapore and Hong Kong University, which tie for second place. Peking University moves up one place to fifth, its highest ever position.
"Asian higher education is undergoing a rapid transformation. Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China and Korea are at the forefront of the assault on the global academic elite," says Ben Sowter, head of QS Intelligence Unit, which also compiles the QS World University Rankings.
"There are already 17% more Asian universities in the global top 200 since the recession, and the next two decades could see leading US and European universities objectively overtaken."
QS University Rankings: Asia also shows a five-year surge in international students studying at ranked institutions in the region, from 175,286 in 2009 to 255,212 this year. Total international faculty has grown from 21,223 to 35,677.
"As Western governments struggle to maintain funding levels, Asian institutions have rapidly increased their ability to attract the world's best faculty and students," says Sowter.
The rapid speed of change in the region is on display in a complementary ranking, QS Top 50 under 50, which ranks universities established since 1963.
Asia boasts five of the world's top six young institutions, a forecast of a future realignment of the global balance of power from West to East.
2013 QS University Rankings Asia: Top 10
2013 2012 Institution Territory
1 1 HKUST HK
2 2 National University of Singapore Singapore
2 3 University of Hong Kong HK
4 4 Seoul National University Korea
5 6 Peking University China
6 7 KAIST Korea
7 9 POSTECH Korea
7 5 The Chinese University of Hong Kong HK
9 8 The University of Tokyo Japan
10 10 Kyoto University Japan
10 17 Nanyang Technological University Singapore