How Do University Rankings Work?

Global Ed

When it comes to choosing an institution for global ed, students look at many factors – university rankings being one of them. And while this is an important factor to consider, it’s not the only one.

We’re looking at what that means – as in how these university rankings work.

We look at…

  • How are universities ranked?
  • Are these rankings important?

The short answer is that there are various quantifiable factors are considered – like funding and endowment, research influence, excellence in specialization, diversity in faculty and alumni, awards, graduate employment, industrial linkage, and historical reputation amongst others.

How are universities ranked?

Here’s a look at a few of the most looked-at rankings along with their ranking criteria:

  • QS World University Rankings is the most widely viewed university ranking globally. Produced by Quacquarelli Symonds, it has published rankings annually since 2004. In 2021 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford, Stanford University, Cambridge, and Harvard University ranked in the top 5. QS Ranking asks 50,000 global employers which institutions supply the best or the most competent, innovative, and effective graduates into the workforce, and sends surveys to over 100,000 academic experts who are asked to mark the research excellence of universities barring their own. They weigh multiple factors to build the ranks, such as:
    • Academic reputation
    • Employer reputation
    • Faculty/student ratio
    • Citations per faculty
    • International faculty ratio
    • International student ratio
  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings uses 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators, to provide a comprehensive and balanced comparison, by deriving bibliometrics (or citations) from Elsevier’s Scopus database trusted by students, academics, universities, and industry leaders to understand the quality of research and its influence that sets an institution apart. A few of these parameters are:
    • Teaching
    • Research
    • Citations
    • International outlook
    • Industry Income
  • Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks more than 2000 universities and eventually publishes the best 1000. Their parameters include:
    • The number of alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals,
    • The number of staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals,
    • The number of highly cited researchers selected by Clarivate Analytics,
    • The number of articles published in the journals of Nature and Science,
    • The number of articles indexed in the Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index,
    • The per capita academic performance of a university.

Are these rankings important?

These rankings prove to be helpful for students who want to gauge the strengths of an institution. From employers to governments, everyone uses these rankings to understand where they are posited in an increasingly competitive market. Magazines, newspapers, websites, governments, and academics not only prefer to rank entire institutions but also programs, departments, and schools. This helps students who want to consider specific criteria while choosing a school. Employability and graduate rankings are good starting points to learn about universities with a focus on exposing undergraduates to employment opportunities. It also helps to be mindful of your desired campus life and your ideal university experience. It is important to weigh in both on- and off-campus experiences, to seek a diverse environment with strong international involvement and a faculty with several publications under its belt.

For students who choose courses over colleges, it is important to be mindful of modules offered by a university that enhances their skills. A university’s overall reputation is very important, but so is finding emotional support from an institute that will shape your career, as well as finding a faculty that cares about your growth, and having peers who share your passion. Employers are influenced by both a university’s reputation and an individual’s potential, the key is to find the right balance and choose an institute that serves your purpose.

Do you want to know how to choose the right university? You will find the answer in our blog.

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Global Ed


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