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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

The world’s best young universities

Tired of seeing the same universities on league tables? Why not take a look at the world’s best young universities who have quickly climbed the rankings.

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When researching universities, you’ve probably come across some of the world’s most renowned and prestigious institutions that have a long-standing history such as the University of Oxford, Harvard University or Stanford University. While these universities dominate the rankings for good reason, many younger universities deserve recognition despite not having such a prolific history.


So, we’ve taken a look at the Times Higher Education rankings of the Best Young Universities in the World 2020 to showcase the top institutions which are under 50 years old. These rankings assess the research, teaching, international outlook, and knowledge transfer using the same methodology as the standard rankings. Let’s take a look at who came out on top.


1.The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong (HKUST)


Established in 1991, HKUST already ranks 56th in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 (THE) and is consistently considered the best institution in Hong Kong. As the name suggests, HKUST specialises in science and technology, producing cutting-edge research and high-quality teaching. The university also provides excellent teaching in engineeringbusiness, management, and the humanities


Graduate prospects


HKUST ranks 26th in the Global University Employability Ranking 2020 and 2nd  in Greater China (THE). A graduate employment survey of undergraduate students at the university revealed that 76.1 per cent of graduates were in full-time employment and 13.7 per cent were in further studies. The majority of survey respondents were found to be working in commerce and business after graduating.


2. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)


Also opening in 1991, NTU ranks 47th in the world (THE), placing alongside long-established institutions, demonstrating its rapid development. It is also one of the top-ranking universities in Asia, specialising in digital technologies. This can be seen in its smart campus which strives to use digital technology to improve learning and living experiences.


An example of this is an autonomous electric bus that has been created using artificial intelligence, science, and technology. To top it off, the NTU campus is also frequently ranked within the top 15 most beautiful campuses in the world.


Graduate prospects


Many NTU graduates secure roles during their final year of university at leading multinational companies such as GlobalFoundries, Hewlett Packard, Advanced Micro Devices, Ciba Vision and so on. 


3. Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris, France


PSL impressively places within the top three best young universities despite only being established in 2010 and gaining university status in 2019. PSL is a collegiate university with 11 constituent schools.


This institution also has several partners including École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Les Beaux-Arts de Paris and Institut Louis Bachelier. This enables PSL to provide expertise across a wide range of disciplines.


Graduate prospects


Two-thirds of the 17,000 students at PSL go on to study a master's or PhD programme at the university. PSL also has an employability ranking of 34, as decided by companies around the world. It has therefore been ranked the fourth best university in France for employers looking to recruit graduates (THE 2020).


Find out what skills employers value in graduates.


4. Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa, Italy


Since its inception in 1987, the university has gained a reputation for its specialisation in the applied sciences. The admissions process at Sant’Anna is particularly strict with students being expected to prove their proficiency in two languages plus top grades in the entrance exams. Notable alumni at the university include one of Italy’s Prime Minister’s, Giuliano Amato and acclaimed neuroscientist, Giuliano Tononi. 


Graduate prospects


In 2019, Sant’Anna had 1,870 students pursuing postgraduate training courses and further education programmes (Go to University).


5. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea


Ranking 96th (THE) in the world, placing 5th in the world’s Best Young Universities 2020 and considered a leader in scientific teaching and research, KAIST has rapidly become an influential university within the fields of science, technology, maths, engineering, and business.


The university began in 1971 and is unique in that it can decide its own admissions requirements and course content. KAIST is comprised of five colleges and home to 10,500 students.


Graduate prospects


Graduates from KAIST go on to teach and produce research at world-leading institutions including MIT, Harvard, UCLA, and Caltech. A large proportion of KAIST graduates also find employment with Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and SK Telecom. Many graduates start businesses after studying at KAIST. As of 2018, there were 1,832 start-ups created by KASIT graduates.


Hopefully, you’ve found what you were looking for here but if not make sure you check out our report of the full THE 2021 university rankings. You can also use our course matcher tool to find a university based on your preferences and qualifications.


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