PETALING JAYA - Singapore's two universities are in the top 15 of the QS World University Rankings 2015/16.
The National University of Singapore is confirmed as the leading Asian institution at No. 12 while Nanyang Technological University is in 13th place.
In comparison, Malaysia's best institution is in the top 150 with another new entry ranked 701+.
However, Malaysian universities excelled in two of the five broad faculty areas table, with Universiti Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia among the world's Top 100 for Engineering and Technology and UM and USM among the Top 100 for Social Sciences and Management.
QS Intelligence Unit head of research Ben Sowter said UM, which is ranked 146th, is still Malaysia's number one.
The sharpest rise is seen in USM which is up 20 places to 289 compared to 309 in 2014 and Universiti Putra Malaysia which climbed up 45 places to 331 this year.
Universiti Utara Malaysia is a new entry at 701+.
On Malaysia, Sowter said there had been some movements up and down but overall Malaysia had fared reasonably well.
"It remains the case that their reputation and other measures outperform their citations strength," he told The Star.
The strengths of Malaysian institutions, he said, were in the technical and social sciences while the performance in the world's ranking had been mixed, with three universities rising mostly as a consequence of the methodological reform applied in this edition, three dropping, one new entry and one unchanged.
"While there are some successes, there is also room for improvement in all the indicators we consider," he said.
The QS World University Rankings is an annual league table of the top universities in the world with 891 universities ranked this year.
Sowter said the QS World University Rankings are based on four key pillars, research, teaching, employability and internationalisation and the methodology consists of six indicators: academic reputation (40 per cent), employer reputation (10 per cent), faculty student ratio (20 per cent), citations per faculty (20 per cent), international students (5 per cent), and international faculty (5 per cent).
The Higher Education Ministry said overall, the country's five research universities are still in the 1 per cent top universities in the world and have shown improvements.
The ministry said it would continue to improve local universities through several measures including improving the ratio between students and lecturers, increasing the number of international lecturers and improving the quality of research and publications.
These measures are in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) launched in April, said the ministry.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology topped the rankings this year followed by Harvard University in second place with the University of Cambridge and Stanford University in joint third place, the California Institute of Technology in fifth place, Oxford University (sixth), University College London (seventh), Imperial College London (eighth), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ninth) and the University of Chicago in 10th.