The List: The Ivy League of the Developing World
For years, the smartest and most ambitious students in poor countries had to venture abroad for a world-class education. But as their countries play catch up, several schools have quietly snuck up on the world’s most prestigious universities. In this week’s List, FP takes at look at some of the developing-country institutions that are producing talent to compete with the best of the West.
Peking University (China)
Peking University (China)
Student body: 46,074. Every year, roughly 2,000 international students matriculate, mainly from Asia, but also from Europe and the Americas.
History: Founded in 1898, the school (often called the University of Beijing) has been at the epicenter of political currents that have swept through China. Mao Zedong worked as a librarian here, and it was in the universitys dorms that Tiananmen student protestors organized their activities. But times have changed, and political posters have been replaced by job listings and MBA advertisements.
Claim to fame: Ranked the No. 1 university outside of Europe and North America by the Times of London, it blends a traditional campus with high-tech research facilities. Renowned for its pure and applied sciences, the university produced the brain power for Chinas hydrogen bomb. Now, it trains leaders for the countrys economic boom. Chinas top IT entrepreneurs, political leaders, and scientists have all passed through the universitys halls.
Notable alums: Wang Dan, the leader of the Tiananmen Square protests
Whats next: The university is developing a Western-style curriculum, including a credit system that allows students to choose courses from a wide variety of fields outside of their major.
Photo: Adrian Frith University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Student body: Roughly 20,000
History: Founded in 1829 as an all-boys school, it grew into a university in 1918. Known for its leftist politics, the schools students frequently clashed with police in anti-apartheid protests during the late 1980s.
Claim to fame: The most prestigious university in Africa, it counts among its alumni three Nobel Prize winners. It is a bastion of liberalism and racial integration and is struggling with the rest of the nation to deal with the legacy of apartheid.
Notable alums: Writer J.M. Coetzee, 2003 Nobel Prize winner for literature, and the American film critic Roger Ebert, who was a fellow at the university
Whats next: To respond to issues surrounding South Africas debilitating HIV/AIDS epidemic, the university offers education, training, and awareness programs.
Seoul National University (South Korea)
Student body: More than 28,000
History: Founded in 1946 in the aftermath of Japans defeat and withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula
Claim to fame: SNU is one of three elite schools that dominate Koreas political, economic, and social life, and many of the countrys politicians are alums. Not surprisingly, the school is often criticized for being elitist and bureaucratic.
Notable alums: Ban Ki-moon, the incoming U.N. secretary general, and Hwang Woo Suk, a biomedical scientist and until recently a professor at his alma mater. A media darling, Hwang was recently indicted on charges of faking stem cell research and embezzling funds.
Whats next: The Hwang affair prompted a round of soul searching at SNU and is reportedly leading to new guidelines for stem cell research. To combat charges of elitism, the school is considering a proposal to admit at least one student from every district in the country.
Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad (India)
Student body: The elite student body numbers fewer than 1,000. Special schools even offer year-long courses that help students prepare for the entrance exam.
History: The school was established in 1961 to create managers for Indias expanding industry and government sectors. The liberalization of the Indian economy in the 1990s increased demand for the institutes specialized training.
Claim to fame: It is the most prestigious of six related institutes spread around the country. That it accepts only 1 percent of its applicants has only added to its allure. IIMA graduates populate the upper echelons of global business, from Citigroup to the tigers of outsourcing. It is also one of the first business schools in the country to use the case study method of instruction.
Notable alums: Raghuram G. Rajan, one of the youngest chief economists at the International Monetary Fund, and Ajay Banga, chairman and CEO of Citigroups Global Consumer Group-International
Whats next: IIMA plans to increase its international presence by recruiting foreign students and professors, and by expanding its executive training program to other developing countries through foreign campuses.
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (Saudi Arabia)
Student body: Roughly 10,000 students (all male)
History: The university was founded in 1963 on a site adjoining Saudi Aramco facilities to enable Saudis to become custodians of their countrys oil wealth.
Claim to fame: The primarily English education is free for the 15 percent of applicants fortunate enough to be admitted. Science is the main focus, and along with oilmen, the university trains doctors, engineers, and businessmen.
Notable alums: Ghazi al-Yawar, president of the Iraqi interim government from 2004 to 2005
Whats next: Apparently concerned about the possibility of peak oil production and the Wests efforts to curb its dependence on foreign oil, the university is sponsoring research on alternative sources of energy, including fuel cells.
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