The World University Rankings, a Methodology Overview.

Any former university student or current university student or future university student have heard about university rankings. There are plenty of them. Due to this diversity we have to take its results carefully.

In my opinion, the 3 top rankings right now are QS University Rankings (from UK), Times Higher Education (THE) (from UK) and Shanghai Ranking (from SJTU). Nevertheless, they differ significantly with the positions of the same universities in the rank.

As we see in the top 5 positions only the 3 cambridge universities (US and UK) are represented in all rankings and they have different positions.

Methodology as key point

As you may know this rankings are done with mathematical formulas, statistical data and surveys. The point here is that every ranking have a different weight and a different way to calculate 3 fields that determine the quality of an University: Research, Teaching and Employment.

It’s clear that if QS ranking give more points for the research activity, a research university will be on top meanwhile if THE ranking seeks university reputation, Harvard university will be on top. Let’s go step by step.

QS rankings Methodology

The image in the left sums up very well how the QS is ranking universities. They give a 50% of the points for what people think about other universities and another 50% for statistical data about different fields.

This is a good spread, at least equal, and demonstrate a good methodology. Nevertheless, I think giving a 40% of the punctuation just to one survey is quite dangerous.

In the 3 important field we can group different percentages like RESEARCH (40+20+5), TEACHING (20+5) and EMPLOYMENT (10).

Shanghai Ranking Methodology

This ranking is completely weird for our friends, the british, they do not use surveys so 100% of their data is statistical information. In this case, the ranking is purely research related, I guess this is a difficult cut but I’m gonna jump and say that RESEARCH get a (20+20+20+20), EDUCATION get a (10+10) and EMPLOYMENT doesn't have any meaning.

This is a quite big change to the QS and the explanation may be the academic origin of it. As the developers of this rankling are faculty members and therefore, researchers I think is understandable that they give more weight to these fields. Moreover, the academic view can also be observed in the lack of surveys and the willing to introduce objective data.

Criteria in SJTU Ranking

THE methodology

This is pretty complicated methodology. A mix of surveys and data in each of the fields give a odd look to this informative chart. Nevertheless, if we look into each field we start discovering that it shares so many common fields with QS. For example, in the learning category we find a survey, and student teacher ratio, doctoral to bachelor’s degrees ratio, number of doctorates and institutional income ratio. this example also works to show the complexity of it.

THE methodology divided in Research reputation, Learning environment, research influence, innovation and international outlook.

What’s different from the others rankings is the consideration of the institution research income. They justify this with a simple sentence. To develop good research you need a good income.

The clustering of different percentages is quite clear in this case: RESEARCH (30+30), LEARNING (30+7.5) and EMPLOYMENT (2.5%).


University rankings methodologies

QS met:

THE met:

Shanghai met:

All of the images and information have been taken from 2014 ranking web pages.

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