The global ranking of Korean universities is still low compared to the country's national strength, but competition among universities in the country is helping them improve.
Korea's most prestigious universities rose in the 2009 World University Rankings by the Times and British consulting firm Quacquarelli Symonds. Seoul National University placed 47th, up from 50th last year.
Four Korean universities ranked among the top 200 this year. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) rose to 69th from 95th in 2008, Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) from 188th to 134th, and Yonsei University from 203rd to 151st. Korea University almost made it into the top 200 schools, ranking 211th, up from 239th last year.
This was the first time since 2004, when The Times-QS evaluation began, that a Korean university ranked among the top 50 schools or that as many as four Korean universities were listed in the top 200. Last year only three -- SNU, KAIST and POSTECH -- were in the top 200.
In the global university rankings, traditionally prestigious universities in the U.S. and the U.K. topped the list. Harvard was top for the second year running, followed by Cambridge, Yale, University College London, and Oxford.
In Korea, measures to improve KAIST taken by president Suh Nam-pyo since 2006 sparked competition among universities. Stimulated by Suh's reforms, other university presidents have contributed to improving their schools, implementing strategies to globalize the campus by inviting distinguished scholars from abroad, or drastically increasing the number of classes given in English.
QS head of research Ben Sowter said Korean universities' progress was conspicuous in this year's evaluation, as in the Chosun Ilbo-QS Asian University Rankings released in May.