The QS World University Rankings continue to enjoy a remarkably consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that we believe effectively capture university performance. Since faculty area normalization was introduced in 2015 to ensure that institutions specializing in Life Sciences and Natural Sciences were not unduly advantaged, we have avoided fundamental changes. In doing so, we aim to ensure that year-on-year comparisons remain valid, and that unnecessary volatility is minimized.
Thus, universities continue to be evaluated according to the following six metrics:
- Academic Reputation
- Employer Reputation
- Faculty/Student Ratio
- Citations per faculty
- International Faculty Ratio
- International Student Ratio
Academic reputation (40%)
The highest weighting of any metric is allotted to an institution’s Academic Reputation score. Based on our Academic Survey, it collates the expert opinions of over 130,000 individuals in the higher education space regarding teaching and research quality at the world’s universities. In doing so, it has grown to become the world’s largest survey of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community.
Employer reputation (10%)
Students will continue to perceive a university education as a means by which they can receive valuable preparation for the employment market. It follows that assessing how successful institutions are at providing that preparation is essential for a ranking whose primary audience is the global student community.
Our Employer Reputation metric is based on over 75,000 responses to our QS Employer Survey, and asks employers to identify those institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative, effective graduates. The QS Employer Survey is also the world’s largest of its kind.
Faculty/Student Ratio (20%)
Teaching quality is typically cited by students as the metric of the highest importance to them when comparing institutions using a ranking. It is notoriously difficult to measure, but we have determined that measuring teacher/student ratios is the most effective proxy metric for teaching quality. It assesses the extent to which institutions are able to provide students with meaningful access to lecturers and tutors, and recognizes that a high number of faculty members per student will reduce the teaching burden on each individual academic.
Citations per faculty (20%)
Teaching is one key pillar of an institution’s mission. Another is research output. We measure institutional research quality using our Citations per Faculty metric. To calculate it, we take the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.
To account for the fact that different fields have very different publishing cultures – papers concerning the Life Sciences are responsible for nearly half of all research citations as of 2015 – we normalize citations. This means that a citation received for a paper in Philosophy is measured differently to one received for a paper on Anatomy and Physiology, ensuring that, in evaluating an institution’s true research impact, both citations are given equal weight.
We use a five-year publication window for papers, so for this edition, we looked at papers published from 2015 to 2019. We then take a look at a six-year citation window; reflecting the fact that it takes time for research to be effectively disseminated. In this edition we look for citations from 2015-2020.
All citations data is sourced using Elsevier’s Scopus database, the world’s largest repository of academic journal data. This year, QS assessed 96 million citations from 14.7 million papers once self-citations were excluded.
International faculty ratio/International student ratio (5% each)
A highly international university acquires and confers a number of advantages. It demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, which in turn suggests that it possesses a strong international brand. It implies a highly global outlook: essentially for institutions operating in an internationalized higher education sector. It also provides both students and staff alike with a multinational environment, facilitating the exchange of best practices and beliefs. In doing so, it provides students with international sympathies and global awareness: soft skills increasingly valuable to employers. Both of these metrics are worth 5% of the overall total.