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China crushes India in BRICS university ranking

China has dominated a ranking of the top BRICS universities, with 40 mainland institutions making it into the top 100, compared with just 16 for economic rival India.

Tsinghua University, referred to as "China's MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology],"grabbed first place, according to a ranking by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), which is based on eight key indicators including faculty-to-student ratio, the number of staff members holding a PhD, and reputation among employers.

The Beijing-based institution produces more state leaders and senior officials than any other mainland university, according to local media, including the current and former presidents Xi Jinping and Hu Jintao.

(Read more: Chinese students are harder workers: Lang Lang)

"It is not surprising that China leads the pack, given the size of its economy and population and the massive resources it has been putting into higher education. This BRICS ranking points to a sharp contrast between Indian and Chinese achievement in higher education," said Zoya Zaitseva, project director for QS University Rankings.

XiXinXing | Getty Images

No Indian university featured in the top 10, with the highest ranked university - Indian Institute of Technology - taking the 13th spot.

"Despite being only marginally smaller in population, India has only 16 institutions listed here, less than half China's haul. While India has world-class institutions in science and technology, its comprehensive universities are not as strong in an international context," Zaitseva added.

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Interestingly, while Tsinghua is ranked at the top of the BRIC table, it placed 48th in QS' latest world university rankings - a sign that China and its emerging market peers have a way to go in terms in global academia.

Peking University (China), Lomonosov Moscow State University (Russia), Fudan University (China), Nanjing University (China) claimed second through fifth place, in ascending order.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China), University of Science and Technology of China (China), Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil), Zhejiang University (China) and Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Brazil) ranked sixth to tenth place.

(Read more: In China, any US degree just won't do)

Overall, Russian, Brazilian and South African universities claimed 19, 17 and 8 spots, respectively in the top 100.

"Russia performs well in this ranking and demonstrates great progress as a part of its ambition to have five universities in the global top 100 by 2020. There are ambitious plans to expand the number of Brazilian students studying abroad; over time, the result could be a more internationally-integrated Brazilian university system," said Ben Sowter, head of research at QS.

"South Africa's university system is fast-changing, with new institutions being launched and old ones reformed; its strengths include strong international connections as well as productive and well-regarded researchers. Its universities are consistently good at attracting international students and staff, in line perhaps with its mission of African leadership in higher education," Sowter added.

—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani; Follow her on Twitter: @Ansuya_H

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