Chinese universities led the rankings in a survey of schools from the five major developing Brics nations, a survey said on Wednesday, despite problems including restrictions on academic freedom.

China took six of the top 10 slots in a study of schools there and in Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa by the London-based rankings firm QS. The report placed Tsinghua and Peking University, both in Beijing, in first and second place, and said China was ‘the most likely of the BRICS nations to achieve its goal of developing world-class universities’.

Brazilian institutions took two of the top 10 spots, with Russia and South Africa on one each. China has invested heavily in higher education in recent decades with the aim of producing globally competitive schools. Spending on higher education tripled in the 10 years from 1996 and the sector is now the world’s largest, QS said in its report.  China’s performance in the rankings was helped by its academics’ prodigious production of research, it said. ‘The key question for China is whether this massive output of research papers will turn in time into influential discoveries cited around the world.