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QS World University Rankings

Historical and Institutional Background

The QS World University Rankings is a ranking of the world’s top 500 universities by Quacquarelli Symonds using a method that has published annually since 2004.

The QS rankings were originally published in publication with Times Higher Education from 2004 to 2009 as the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. In 2010, Times Higher Education and QS ended their collaboration. QS assumed sole publication of the existing methodology, while Times Higher Education created a new ranking methodology, published as Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Between 2004 and 2009, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) produced the rankings in partnership with Times Higher Education (THE). In 2009, THE announced they would produce their own rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, in partnership with Thomson Reuters. After criticism from universities, THE cited a weakness in the methodology of the original rankings, as well as a perceived favoritism in the existing methodology for science over the humanities, as one of the key reasons for the decision to split with QS.

QS retained the intellectual property in the Rankings and the methodology used to compile them and continues to produce the rankings, now called the QS World University Rankings.

QS publishes the results of the original methodology in key media around the world. The first rankings produced by QS independently of THE, and using QS’s consistent and original methodology, were released on September 8, 2010, with the second appearing on September 6, 2011.

Indicators and Methodology

Data sources

The information used to compile the World University Ranking comes partly from the online surveys carried out by QS, partly from Scopus, and partly from an annual information-gathering exercise carried out by QS itself. QS collects data from universities directly and from their web sites and publications, and from national bodies such as education ministries and the National Center for Education Statistics in the US and the Higher Education Statistics Agency in the UK.

Aggregation

The data is aggregated into columns according to its Z score, an indicator of how far removed any institution is from the average. Between 2004 and 2007 a different system was used whereby the top university for any measure was scaled as 100 and the others received a score reflecting their comparative performance. According to QS, this method was dropped because it gives too much weight to some exceptional outliers.

In 2009, a column of classifications was introduced to provide additional context to the rankings tables. Universities are classified by size, defined by the size of the student body; comprehensive or specialist status, defined by the range of faculty areas in which programs are offered; and research activity, defined by the number of papers published in a five-year period. In 2011, QS began publishing average fees data for the universities it ranks.

QS publishes a simple analysis of the top 100 institutions in each of the five faculty-level areas: natural sciences, technology, biology and medicine, social sciences and the arts and humanities. These five tables list universities in order of their Academic Peer Review score. They also give the citations per paper for each institution, but the two data sets are not aggregated.

Indicators

Indicators Definition Weight
ACADEMIC REPUTATION

The Academic Reputation Index is the centrepiece of the QS World University Rankings® carrying a weighting of 40%. It is an approach to international university evaluation that QS pioneered in 2004 and is the component that attracts the greatest interest and scrutiny. In concert with the Employer Reputation Index it is the aspect which sets this ranking most clearly apart from any other.

40%
EMPLOYER REPUTATION

The Employer Reputation component is unique amongst current international evaluations in taking into consideration the important component of employability. The majority of undergraduate students leave university in search of employment after their first degree, making the reputation of their university amongst employers a crucial consideration

10%
FACULTY STUDENT

Student Faculty Ratio is, at present, the only globally comparable and available indicator that has been identified to address the stated objective of evaluating teaching quality. Clearly it is not a satisfactory as a qualitative classroom evaluation as might be considered for a domestic teaching assessment, but it does speak to the notion of “commitment to teaching”, which ought to correlate strongly, if not completely with the level of teaching quality.

20%
CITATIONS PER FACULTY

Citations, evaluated in some fashion to take into account the size of institution, are the best understood and most widely accepted measure of research strength.

Often calculated on a “per paper” basis, the QS World University Rankings™ has adopted a “per faculty member” approach since its inception in 2004. The Citations per Faculty score contributes 20% to the overall rankings score.

20%
CITATIONS and PAPERs

Papers and Citations, evaluated in some fashion to take into account the size of institution, are the best understood and most widely accepted measure of research strength.

Often calculated on a “per paper” basis, the QS World University Rankings® has adopted a “per faculty member” approach since its inception in 2004. The Citations per Faculty score contributes 20% to the overall rankings score.

INTERNATIONAL FACULTY

Globalisation has had a major influence on the landscape of higher education and whilst, in some ways, universities may at one time have been pioneering in this regard the level to which ease of mobility has affected them is profound. International strategies at universities are much more than simply the numbers of international faculty and students, but these serve as strong measures of institutions with advanced strategies in this area.

5%
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS 5%