World University Ranking

World universities rankings: What they are, how they are selected, and what do they mean to you

There are multiple world university rankings available and each of these rankings uses a different methodology. This can sometimes be confusing when trying to decide on which university to go to.

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Different university ranking uses different performance indicators when evaluating each university. The QS World University Rankings, for example, takes into account indicators like academic reputation (40% of overall score), employer reputation (10%), student-to-faculty ratio (20%), research citation per faculty member (20%), proportion of international faculty (5%) and proportion of international students (5%) while the Times Higher Education World University Rankings uses indicators like teaching (30% of overall score), research (30%), research citation (30%), international outlook (7.5%), industry income (2.5%). 

Below we’ll take a look at university rankings according to the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Ranking to see the how a certain university can rank differently according to each ranking.

The QS World University Rankings

Ranking

University

Location

1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

USA

2

Stanford University

USA

3

Harvard University

USA

4

California Institute of Technology (CALTECH)

USA

5

University of Oxford

UK

6

ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Switzerland

7

University of Cambridge

UK

8

Imperial College London

UK

9

University of Chicago

USA

10

University College London (UCL) 

UK

 

Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Ranking

University

Location

1

University of Oxford

UK

2

Stanford University

USA

3

Harvard University

USA

4

California Institute of Technology

USA

5

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

USA

6

University of Cambridge

UK

7

University of California, Berkeley

USA

8

Yale University

USA

9

University of Chicago

USA

10

Imperial College London

UK


Looking at tables above, it’s clear that different universities receive different rank on either scale; measuring universities based on different performance indicators puts each university in a different place. The results of either scale cannot be compared to one another since you’re not comparing apples to apples.

How much should students focus on university ranking?

Deciding which university you want to go to is often puzzling as to finding one that is highly-ranked or simply one that matches your qualifications.

As shown in the tables above, having multiple university rankings out there only adds to your confusion; not only are they put together by different providers, every ranking measures a different aspect of the institution. So, a university may receive an advanced ranking for a certain course or field of study, but may not receive the same ranking when compared to other schools. Moreover, one university ranking may find a certain university to be first within a country while another university ranking may find it to be at a different place; The QS World University Ranking, for example, ranks Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as first within the United States while the Times Higher Education World University Ranking puts it in fourth place. Students have to keep in mind that bigger universities with higher budgets and more means to promoting themselves have more influence when it comes to ranking than smaller universities that do not have the same means.

How much weight do Employers put on university rankings?

At the end of the day, future employers are unlikely to know exactly which universities are best for which courses. Studying at an unknown university because it’s excellent for the major you want to pursue isn’t going to be much help when an employer has no idea where your qualification is from.

That said, if you are studying an industry-specific subject -be it Law or Engineering, this may not be an issue. Law firms and engineering companies may very well be educated on the reputation of a certain university for a certain course of study. 

How do you choose a university to go to?

If you’re unsure of what career path you want to follow, or you’re taking a degree not directly relevant to your future career, studying at a globally respected university is the foot-in-the-door you’ll need when job hunting.

However, if you are going to university to become an expert in your field and to pursue further degrees and certifications to begin your journey to becoming an academic or you are merely studying a career-specific course, choosing your subject based on course rankings is your best bet.

Course-specific rankings show which universities offer the best teaching quality and course structure for your subject specifically. For example, London School of Economics may be great for Finance and Business majors, if you’re passionate about the History of Art or Geology, you might want to consider a different institution.

It’s also worth remembering that rankings take a statistical approach to university quality. If you are looking for specific qualities in your degree, you may find it helpful to speak to students and lecturers in the departments you are interested in.

This way, you can discuss your personal needs and hear directly from your future peers and lecturers about how the course is structured.

Every student has different priorities, every university has different structures and every employer has different wants. To make the most of rankings, you should identify what you personally want from your degree and then speak to relevant people as well to decide what will best suit you.

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