The National University of Singapore (NUS) has moved up one spot to No. 2 in a ranking of Asian varsities released on Monday.

The exercise by London-based education and career consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) lists Asia's top 300 universities based on criteria such as academic reputation, number of papers per faculty and the ratio of student to faculty.

Professor Tan Eng Chye, deputy president (academic affairs) and provost at NUS, said: 'We are delighted to note that the reputation of our capabilities in arts and humanities, engineering and technology and the natural sciences have strengthened.

'Our researchers are also creating great impact through their scientific work - evident in the larger number of papers published and an improvement in number of citations per paper.'

The top spot went to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) for the second year. The top 10 was dominated by schools from South Korea, Japan and China.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) maintained its 17th spot this year.

The Singapore Management University was not included in the ranking because it is considered a 'single faculty institution' that specialises in only one area - social sciences, said a QS spokesman. To qualify for the overall ranking, a varsity has to be active in at least two broad faculty areas, such as social sciences, and engineering and technology, for example.

In another new ranking of universities worldwide under 50 years old, 21-year-old NTU is fourth after the University of Warwick in Britain, HKUST and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Professor Bertil Andersson, president of NTU, said: 'There are advantages to being a young university as we can be innovative in our curriculum and seize new opportunities that we sense on the horizon.'

For example, the university's new medical school - the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, which NTU teamed up with Imperial College London to set up - will pioneer innovative teaching methods in medical education, he said.

He added: 'In research, we have moved into sunrise areas such as new media and sustainability.'

Of the rise of young Asian varsities, QS head of research Ben Sowter said: 'As the West tightens its belt following the recession, Asian governments are investing heavily, particularly in scientific research.'

He said NTU's fourth placing 'puts it on a par with some of the world's best young universities'.

'At the same time, the longer-established NUS' steady climb up the regional performance could suggest a shift in power at the top in the near future.'