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What are the QS World University Rankings®?

The QS World University Rankings® are a league table of the world’s top universities, measuring research quality, teaching, employability and internationalisation to give a range of stakeholders, in particular prospective students, a simple tool to shortlist universities in which they may be interested.

Why were these specific criteria selected and why these specific weightings applied?

The selection of criteria and their respective indicators are the most subjective aspect of any ranking. Whilst universities are often focused on a wide variety of missions, QS believes that any university that seriously aspires to be considered world class needs to build key strengths in our four broad criteria of research quality, teaching commitment, graduate employability and internationalisation. The subsequent selection of indicators and weightings is based on both what data is feasible to collect on a global level and their relative appropriateness to measure the criteria concerned.

Is it possible for an international assessment of universities to be objective and unbiased?

The selection of indicators and criteria for a ranking are by their nature subjective. Most indicators, whether based on hard data or surveys carry some degree of bias whether in favour of history, particular geography, pedagogy, culture or discipline. More objective assessments come in the form of accreditations or ratings, classifications and interactive systems where the user identifies their own criteria and weightings. QS has projects in active development on all of these fronts but they all lack the power of a published ranking in drawing attention to the important question of university choice – they are better employed to answer them. So the solutions QS has in development will complement the main ranking.

Do universities pay to take part in the QS World University Rankings®?

No. University participation in the QS World University Rankings® is free. Institutions do not have the option to opt-out or opt-in to our rankings.

How is QS Stars related to the QS World University Rankings®?

QS Stars is a new separate rating system produced by the QS Intelligence Unit in 2011. QS Stars have been published alongside the QS World University Rankings® in 2011 to provide students with a more in-depth analysis and the opportunity to dig deeper into an individual university's strengths and weaknesses.

The rating system is designed in response to institutions' needs and provides an evaluation that asssess all their strengths and weaknesses, using more comprehensive indicators beyond those used in the rankings. Because the system evaluates an institution against pre-set thresholds as opposed to a rankings, which needs to locate indicators common to all universities, it is able to measure more indicators and take a more granular view and account for diversity of mission.

Due to the complexity and the level of detail required in order to conduct a thorough QS Stars audit, this is an opt-in service, which, for a comprehensive audit, incurs a cost to institutions wishing to undergo the process. An institution optin-in to the QS Stars audit has abolutely no influence on its position in the QS World University Rankings®.


What steps are you taking to ensure that the Academic Reputation Index response data is adequately representative of the international academic community, and not disproportionately biased towards UK/US institutions?

The Academic Reputation response has always been weighted by region to smooth much of the potential bias – in fact much of the criticism against it has suggested that the Academic Reputation results are biased against US institutions rather than towards them. Additionally, in 2008, we separated the domestic and international contexts in the survey, which now means that domestic responses for domestic institutions now only count for a limited proportion of the Academic Reputation score regardless of whether we have 100 or 10,000 responses from that country.

Why are you sticking to the 40% weighting on the academic reputation index despite the criticism it has attracted?

We have stated for some time, that if we can identify additional reliable measures of teaching commitment then we may well reduce the emphasis on our academic peer review. Every criterion of every ranking that has ever been devised has attracted criticism, but here are the facts: to our knowledge the academic reputation index indicator is based on the largest survey of its kind ever conducted to date; the academic peer review used in the QS World University Rankings® is currently the only measure of research quality used in any global ranking that is truly discipline independent. As a result institutions with strengths in Arts and Social Sciences perform to a degree within the QS Rankings where they are entirely overlooked elsewhere.

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