How University Rankings are Created

University, ranking, higher education, The Academic Ranking of World Universities, Times Higher Education, QS World University Rankings
Nowadays, higher education is highly differentiated

Around 10 years ago, a young French woman was complaining of her father-in-law:

‘He refused to pay for his son’s education and he went to a mediocre university. Now he makes 2,000 euros a month but it could have been 4,000 if only he had gone to Sorbonne.

At that time, similar problems were unknown to people in this country. If you had a degree, you were able to find a job no matter which university you graduated from. However, differentiation of universities is not a myth. It has become a reality for us as well.

Applying for a university, applicants choose not only the quality of education but also the quality of life they will have in the future. It is no wonder that many applicants ask themselves a question: which university will help me get the most out of education? The answer is in university rankings that evaluate the quality of university degrees either around the world or in a particular country. Some of the most famous world university rankings are Academic Ranking of World Universities (also known as Shanghai Ranking), Times Higher Education and The QS World University Rankings

The methodology of Academic Ranking of World Universities was developed in 2003 by N.C Liu and Y Cheng. Since the ranking was first compiled and issued by the Institute of Higher Education in Shanghai Jiao Tong University, it was called ‘Shanghai Ranking’. Working on the assignment of the Chinese government, researchers had to evaluate the level of Chinese universities and compare them to world universities in terms of academic performance and research quality. That is why Shanghai Ranking is primarily based on research held in universities:

  • number of Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalists among graduates (10%);
  • number of Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalists among teaching staff (20%);
  • citation of researchers in 21 broad subject categories (20%);
  • number of papers published in journals Science and Nature for the last 5 years (20%);
  • citation index of papers published in the university in other researches (20%);
  • university scale amendment – the sum of previous points is divided by the total number of staff employed by the university (10%).

It is important to note that Shanghai ranking does not take into account quality of instruction or university’s popularity in the world. They also neglect factors that can prevent staff of certain universities from publishing their papers in major scientific journals. These factors include author’s social background or quality of life in their country. It explains why Ukrainian universities have never been mentioned in Shanghai ranking.

In 2004 the company Quacquarelli Symonds together with the weekly magazine Times Higher Education developed another university ranking called The World University Rankings. Since 2010 the ranking was split in two: Times Higher Education in collaboration with Thomson Reuters issues The World Reputation Rankings while Quacquarelli Symonds conducts extensive education research and publishes the results as QS World University Rankings.

Times Higher Education has the methodology similar to the one used by Shanghai Ranking, focusing primarily on universities’ scientific achievements. However, due attention is paid to the instruction itself. The ranking is based on 13 criteria divided into 5 groups:

  • Teaching (learning environment): holding a questionnaire among researchers, calculating the student – academics ratio, undergraduate degrees – PhDs ratio, PhD awards – academics ratio, university income – academics ratio (30%);
  • Research: calculating University research income, university’s scientific level assessment by researchers in different spheres and calculating the number of papers in scientific journals (30%);
  • Citations: calculating citation index of papers published in the university by other researchers by analyzing 12 thousand journals from Thomson Reuters database (30%);
  • International diversity: calculating domestic – international students ratio, domestic – international staff ratio, collaboration with academics from other countries (7.5%);
  • Industry income: research income – academic staff ratio (2.5%).

Although Times Higher Education takes into consideration various criteria, their main focus is still on research rather than instruction quality. In 2015 Ukrainian universities were mentioned in the ranking for the first time. The decision was made to list 800 universities instead of 400 and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv as well as Karazin Kharkiv National University have been included in the category 601-800

QS World University Rankings is considered one of the most reputable and influential university rankings in the world. It is based on 6 criteria:

  • Academic peer review, which is based on global academic survey for the last three years. The survey asks academics to pick top university in the world based on the quality of their research (40%);
  • Recruiter review, which presupposes interviewing recruiters from different fields, the only condition is that the company should employ not less than 100 people. (10%);
  • Faculty – student ratio, which includes not only university statistics but also education inspection bodies (20%);
  • Citations per faculty, which is calculated from the total number of citations in scientific journals for a five-year period divided by the number of academics in a university (citation must occur in peer papers rather than academic’s own papers) (20%);
  • International student ratio, which indicates whether a university is popular among international students (5%);
  • International staff ratio, which tells whether a university is taken seriously enough by academics around the world for them to want to teach there.

Out of all the university rankings discussed, QS pays the greatest attention to instruction quality. However, QS is criticized for its biased attitude towards American universities. Academic and recruiter surveys, as a rule, are held in the USA, as a result, American universities score an advantage.

QS World University Rankings often mention Ukrainian universities. Last year their ranking included Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Karazin Kharkiv National University, the National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”, Donetsk National University, the National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”, Sumy State University.