How to read the different university rankings...
When you are choosing your university it is important to take your time, do your research and bring people in on your decision making. One common tool which students use is university rankings but how do you use them properly?
University ranking tables and websites have proved useful as a "starting point" to understand the choices available to you, but you need to look beyond rankings and even ask yourself if they are worth it.
There is more than one source to consult and each year a new platform appears promising to help students decide which university to go to . But how are you supposed to choose which one to use? Has the vast wealth of information made it more difficult to make a decision? We think so! Therefore, this blog encourages you to think before you go down the road of using rankings to decide which university to go to.
To help you, we've compiled a list of some of the resources available to you to help you understand where to start.
QS - World University Rankings
QS World University Rankings is published by Quacquarelli Symonds each year in September.
QS assesses just over 3,000 universities and gives individual positions to the top 400. After this, universities are placed within groups, starting from 401-410, up to 701+. QS Typically assess universities in four distinct areas of interest: research; teaching; employability and international outlook.
Each area of interest is then assessed against six indicators:
- Academic reputation based on a global survey of academics (40 per cent)
- Employer reputation based on a global survey of graduate employers (10 per cent)
- Faculty/student ratio (20 per cent),
- Citations per faculty (20 per cent),
- International student ratio (5 per cent)
- International staff ratio (5 per cent)
QS also releases rankings by subject and faculty.
National Student Survey
The National Student Survey is run by Ipsos MORI and takes place from January until April, with the results published in August. It was launched in 2005.
The survey aims to help future students by providing information on the quality of courses which in turn encourages institutions to improve student experience through the feedback from students.
Students are asked to answer 23 questions following the completion of their degree. The questions relate to six aspects of the learning experience including:
- Teaching on the course
- Academic support
- Personal development
- Plus a question on overall satisfaction
Universities that fail to achieve the 50 per cent response threshold are not included in the results.
Times Higher Education (THE)
The World University Rankings offer a list of the top universities around the World. In fact they have a series of features which students should consider: World reputation rankings; 100 under 50 rankings; and European University Rankings.
Each series has it's own focus
- World reputation rankings - The emphasis is on what others think. Be mindful that the ranking is based on opinions rather than calibrated metrics
- 100 under 50 - This ranking looks at "new" universities. Those aged under 50
- European University Rankings - A ranking table that looks at just European universities
THE considers itself to be the only internationally focused university ranking measure to judge world class universities across all of their core missions:
- Knowledge transfer
- International outlook
The Times Higher Education assesses 13 performance indicators to provide fair comparisons and is quit possibly the most robust source of information available to students to help guide their decisions.
We advise that you start with THE if you want a objective view on a university.
Limitations of Ranking tables
League tables have their place. Students should use them as a guide, but not to be led by rankings alone because there are a number of limitations of ranking tables including:
- Each ranking metric has its own methodology and therefore offer very different results
- Not all universities will feature on a World ranking table - this doesn't mean that they aren't any good. So, don't let your decision be guided by ranking tables alone
- All of the three ranking systems put more emphasis on academic reputation and research and miss important opinions such as student experience
- There could be biases in the information which you are being given
Our best piece of advice here is to:
- Consult a range of different resources as well as the different ranking tables
- Look at what former students say about the institution - check their social media pages
- Seek help from those who you can trust. Am impartial careers adviser is a good place to start
- Start with understanding the course content first - does the course content meet your needs and is it aligned to career objectives?
If you have any questions please get in touch with the team at IEW on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to find out about studying your full degree abroad in English? Then visit our international education shows this March!