More Chinese mainland universities than ever before have been ranked among the world's top 500 universities in terms of research capabilities this year.
The annual Academic Ranking of World Universities released on Tuesday includes 45 mainland universities, up from 18 in 2009, when not one made the top 200.
Tsinghua University broke into the top 50 for the first time, ranking 48th, making it the third-highest-ranking Asian university, behind Tokyo and Kyoto universities. The Beijing institution was in the top 200 in 2010. Peking University came in 71st.
Fudan University; Shanghai Jiao Tong University; the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province; and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou all placed in the top 150.
The rankings are published by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, an independent organization dedicated to research on higher education and consultation.
Universities from the United States continue to dominate the list, with 48 institutions in the top 100 and 135 in the top 500.
Harvard University remains the world's No 1, a slot it has occupied since 2003, when the rankings were first released. Stanford continues to be second.
This year the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom overtook the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Berkeley to rise to third place in the rankings.
For the first time, institutions ranked between 501 and 800 were published as top-500 "candidates", which was intended to shed light on the gap between Chinese universities and the most elite ones around the globe.
The US and China are the two biggest sources of top-500 candidates, with 55 universities each. Italy and Japan followed with 21 and 19 respectively.
Lao Kaisheng, a retired professor of education at Capital Normal University, said the enhanced comprehensive strength and international influence of a rising number of Chinese universities is largely due to increased support from the government.
"Judging from my decades of experience working in universities, it has become much easier to apply for research funds, which in my belief has resulted in the development of a lot of research at institutions of higher education," Lao said.
However, he said, the rankings may not be of much value for students in deciding which university to attend, because indicators such as peer assessment, the employment situation of graduates and employers' evaluations of graduates are not included.