Introduction to Traditional University Rankings

What are university rankings?

Many university rankings have been familiar to the higher education field for already over a hundred years. They aim to provide fundamental information about the academic qualification of their listed universities, and they measure their ranks by specific quality indicators. These indicators and the methodology in which university rankings rank their universities vary from one to another.

University rankings typically aim to measure the quality of a university in both a quantitative and qualitative way, emphasising on factors ranging from academic peer reviews to the number of publications in Nature and Science a university has to offer.

Yet, the population of all the universities (or any higher education institution for that matter) in the world is complex and diverse. It is difficult or even impossible to measure all of this population reliably and squeeze their academic performance into numbers and rankings, given the unique circumstances of each higher education school.

However, despite this complexity, university ratings are in fact still very much needed. Ranking universities can help demonstrate otherwise transparent information that can be high valued to political decision makers, academic job seekers, alumni, current students and their future employers.

University Rankings

The rankings listed on our university profiles:

We understand the significance of university rankings when it comes to potential students deciding on where to carry out their studies, that’s why we list four of the most popular and influential rankings on our university profiles. This allows students to not only browse for schools according to their rankings using our powerful search engine, but also to compare these rankings with the reviews left by their peers on each individual university profile.

QS World University Ranking

Quacquarelli Symonds’s (QS) international university ranking produced its first annual publication in 2004 and has since been one of the most widely read university rankings in the world. During the first five years, QS has produced its’ rankings in cooperation with the Times Higher Education (THE), but their paths parted after THE adapted new methods for ranking universities, and QS decided to count on the more traditional methods.

QS’s university ranking research is divided into six parts with different weightings. They are interested in academic peer reviews, the faculty/student ratio, the number of citations per faculty, employer reputation, the international student ratio and similarly the international staff ratio.

The academic peer review and employer reputation surveys are QS’s own specialty, and they account for half (50%) of the total university ranking. While information about the other parts of the ranking is easy to access, QS aims to measure a universities’ activity as broadly as possible.

Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings is one of the most widely observed university rankings together with Academic Ranking of World Universities and QS World University Rankings. As mentioned above, THE and QS were collaborating between 2004 and 2009 before parting ways. From 2010 onwards, THE has been publishing its ranking with a new methodology system.

The reputational component (15% for teaching and 19.5% for research) and the citation impact (32.5%) play a critical role in THE ranking. The rationale behind it was that THE aims to cover a full range of a university’s missions, including their own research excellence.

Apart from this, THE rankings include many performance indicators directly relevant to students in general, helping them to chose where to study by measuring faculty-student ratios, the university’s global reputation, its total resources, the international mix of the campus, and its’ links to the business world.

Academic Ranking of World Universities

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai Ranking, was first published in June 2003 by the Center for World-Class Universities (CWCU), Graduate School of Education (formerly the Institute of Higher Education) of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. It has a generally positive reputation for its objective design of methodology.

The objective indicators include the number of alumni and staff having won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, the number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Reuters, the number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, the number of articles indexed on the Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and the per capita performance of the university. More than 1200 universities are ranked by ARWU every year and the top 500 are published.

CWTS Leiden Ranking

The CWTS Leiden Ranking (CWTS) is compiled by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. It has been based exclusively on bibliometric indicators since 2007. Meanwhile, this ranking solely focuses on the volume of citations and the citation impact of university publications.

CWTS gets its’ data from the Science Citation Index Expanded, the Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index from the Web of Science database. Furthermore, enrichments, such as citation matching and geocoding of the addresses listed in the publications of Web of Science, are also made for data usage.

Study Advisory Popularity:

Traditional university rankings focus more on the academic performance and career prospect of universities. Recent statistics, however, reveal that a large number of students do care a lot more about the first-hand experiences of other students (found from reviews and passed on directly from peers) deeply. Students today find it hard to judge the satisfaction of other students from traditional rankings alone.

There are many variables as to why several high-quality institutions with satisfied students are not making it to the top of traditional ranking lists, such as utilising limited resources for research purposes, or simply because the findings of their research projects are not published in English. We have found with our own research that many schools not highly ranked with traditional rankings are still highly valued in the eyes of their students.

Student Advisory has taken this research into account while developing our own method of ranking universities within our platform; Study Advisory Popularity.

It consists of three elements: the number of visitors on a university profile during a month, the number of shares of a university profile on social media and via emails and the average number of ratings given by their students.

This sorting method can help our student users find the right place to study based on student satisfaction rather than academic performance. What’s more, students can see the in-depth comments left in the reviews by others giving them sufficient information to help them make one of the most important decisions of their life – to choose a higher education institution they would like to carry out their studies with. Feedback is monitored by our admins in order to ensure their trustworthiness, as it is our personal goal to provide credible information for our user base.

We aim to make it easier for everyone in the world to find the perfect place to study, whether that depends on the results of traditional university rankings or the word of mouth reviews of peers from around the world. For more information on finding a place to study, our research, or how to use Study Advisory profiles to market a university with our services, simply contact us at any time!