Brexit and Rising Student Fees: Will International Students Still Be Attracted to Britain?


Our latest QS report,‘Is Brexit Turning International Students Away From the UK?’, derived from the analysis of interviews which took place in cities across Europe, saw the emergence of several key themes among perceptions of post-Brexit UK as a study destination.  One theme that stood out as particularly contentious was the role of money in higher education. Concerns about finances wound their way through many of our participant’s views, and in many different contexts.

For students, one defining benefit of the UK being part of the EU has been the reciprocal fee agreements between EU member states, which enable EU citizens to study in countries throughout Europe for the same price as domestic students. In the likely event that the UK no longer benefits from these agreements post-Brexit, then students from the EU studying in the UK will start being charged the same amount as international (i.e. non-EU) students, which are normally considerably higher fees. Read more


What can British Universities do to Reassure International Students That They Are Still Welcome in the UK?

locked doors

An uncomfortable truth we uncovered in our latest QS report, ‘Is Brexit Turning International Students Away From the UK?’, was that for some students, the events on the 27th of June 2016 and the press coverage surrounding the EU referendum result all pointed towards a major red flag; Britain is no longer welcoming to immigrants. In turn, this view has fostered a sense amongst some international students that they too are unwelcome in the UK. Students have cited the spike in hate crimes in the UK following the Brexit result to back this up, and some even held the opinion that British people were caught up in a wave of xenophobia.

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Students Reveal Brexit is Likely to Have Uneven Impacts on the UK’s Higher Education System

oxford uni

Students believe the British higher education system will be ‘downgraded’ following Brexit, with uneven impacts across the sector. During interviews for our Brexit report, many students expressed the view that in a post-Brexit UK, the only universities worth applying to would be the elite, Russell Group institutions. Lower ranked universities, with a less diverse student body and faculty, are likely to lose their appeal. So, whilst universities like Oxbridge, UCL and LSE will maintain their relevance, others which toe the line of such prestige, could be hit hard and are at risk of a significant drop in international applicants. International students contribute greatly to the economy, not only in fees but also through their spending on campus and the local community. Such a prediction could therefore have a detrimental economic impact on universities which do not perform well in the global rankings. Read more

stand out

How to claim a place amongst the top 1% of world universities?

Or 2%. Or 5% or whatever seems appropriate

Amongst the coverage of today’s QS World University Rankings was a fascinating piece on the BBC. – Amongst many universities, the University of Reading have been claiming status as a “world’s top 1%” university, and this claim has been challenged via a complaint made to the Advertising Standard Agency (ASA).

It’s natural that universities would want to use our data to help their marketing messages stand out from the crowd, and many do, but they should probably be careful to have a well thought through basis for claims such as this. Thankfully, it’s not all that difficult to work the logic through with a bit of web research, some simple arithmetic and some sensible assumptions.

Reading placed 188th in the world in this year’s QS ranking, which enables them to comfortably claim a position amongst the top 20% of institutions in the published QS ranking, but the big question is, what percentage of the world’s universities are covered by the ranking, and to play Devil’s Advocate, with what degree of confidence can we declare those to be the correct institutions to include.

So let’s begin with the most elusive question, just how many universities are there in the world? At a UNESCO event in Paris in 2011, this questions was raised and to all there assembled the quick conclusion was that 20,000 was a conservative estimate.

  • I have heard claim that there are over 7,000 in Latin America alone, the Brazilian Ministry of Education recognise over 2,368 in Brazil alone.
  • According to National Center for Education Statistics the were 4,352 degree-granting universities in the US in 2008
  • There are today over 800 universities 39,000 recognised by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • According to CIS Abroad there were 2,236 colleges and universities in China at the end of 2004.
  • In 2010, there were 778 universities in Japan
  • According to the Commission on Higher Education, there are 1,943 higher education institutions in the Philippines
  • A variety of corroborating sources confirm that there are at least 500 universities in Russia
  • There are 380 officially recognised universities in Germany
  • There are 43 national and around 180 private universities in South Korea according to a profile on the Complete University Guide
  • There are 109 state and 61 private universities in Turkey according to official sources cited by Wikipedia
  • According to Universities UK there were 164 HEIs in the UK in 2015
  • The Ranking Web of World Universities on features 26,368 institutions (

The reality is that, were it possible to determine the exact global number of higher education institutions, it would most likely be in excess of 40,000. So to use the Webometrics count of 26,000 – especially given that Webometrics features only 3,280 institutions in the US, 4,004 in India, 266 in the Philippines and 1,507 in Brazil.

All in all, this presents a picture where 26,000 is a conservative estimate and can be used safely and confidently for calculating percentage ranges in which institutions might fall. We can essentially say, with 100% confidence, that there are, at least, 26,000 higher education institutions in the world

So, that leaves a question about how confident we are that the 959 ranked institutions in our list are, indeed, the top 959, without having ranked all 26,000. We survey academics and employers globally and base our analysis on well over 100,000 survey responses. The ever-evolving list of institutions featured in our surveys currently feature 4,854 universities but our survey allows respondents to list institutions they can’t find and we periodically review their suggestions to evolve the list. We’ve being doing this for 14 years now so can be increasingly confident that we’re not missing universities which deserve to be in the top 1,000 for our reputation metrics.

To screen institutions for inclusion in the final list, we look to the top performers in our regional rankings, we look at their reputation performance in both surveys and we track their performance in Scopus. Each year we examine the data of a list of potential candidate institutions and the list gets a little longer. Once an institution is in the list on merit, they stay in. The QS World University Rankings are not an opt-in ranking – we work hard to rank all deserving institutions – so we can be confident with a low margin of error that the top 500 is actually the top 500 we would arrive at if we had the capacity to evaluate all 26,000. This year five new entries came directly into the top 500, last year there were seven. A 5% error margin more than accounts for the average discover rate in the top 500 and a 3% error margin for the top 200.

So, 188 / 26000 = 0.72%. Can Reading defend the claim that they are within the top 1% of higher education institutions in the world? With a confidence level in excess of 97%, yes, they can… even without a definitive list of the world’s universities. That’s a lot more certainty than many well known advertising slogans have needed over the years.

For any other university currently using a percentage claim in their marketing material, that’s ultimately your final decision, and hopefully the above line of thinking and some of the statistics captured here can help inform and defend it.

sparkling trails of light drawing out the numbers 2018 in glowing light to welcome in the new year

Happy New Year 2018

With the next edition of QS World University Rankings coming out next week, and fact files distributed to all featured institutions, it seems the moment to talk about one peripheral detail that may have escaped some of our followers.

We have reconfigured our annual rankings cycle, moving things around on the calendar with a view to, once the dust has settled, provide clarity rather than cause confusion. These changes have included:

  1. Moving the QS World University Rankings forward to June from its traditional home in September
  2. Pushing the regional rankings back to October from their previous June release
  3. Moving the employability rankings forward to September to coincide with EAIE
  4. Confirming our subject rankings for a late February/early-March launch

The landscape has changed dramatically in the 13 years since we first published a ranking, we have organically built out our rankings portfolio without reconfiguring our publication schedule, when we started this we were one of two rankings compilers producing outcomes of a global scope. We are now one of 19. It’s become a crowded calendar.

So… we took a fresh look at our cycle and rebuilt it, thinking about the logical order in which institutions should be encouraged to provide data, providing greater clarity on what inputs are used for what rankings, what events are taking place that can support, or be supported by the rankings releases, when do we feel students are seeking this kind of data most, on average, worldwide.

We have also taken a look at how our results should be labelled. According to previous protocol, next week’s release would be titled the QS World University Rankings 2017-2018… but we’ve made a decision to abbreviate to the QS World University Rankings 2018 despite the release date being so much earlier. It’s easier for badging and logo purposes and slices out five characters for tweet-friendly messaging – even more if we go down to QSWUR2018 – and we anticipate some SEO advantages.

As much as anything, though, the selection of which of the two year’s to shorten to has come from the intention to keep data collection periods standard within a data collection cycle – all rankings produced in the 2018 cycle will be plainly labelled as such, and will involve survey responses gathered between 2013 and 2017, articles published between 2011 and 2015 and the citations they have attracted until the end of 2016, and data from universities, ministries and central statistics bodies collected and validated, predominantly, in 2016 and 2017.

Whilst previous years’ results were all formally labelled with two years (i.e. 2016-2017) in abbreviated form they were often shortened to the first of the two years, we haven’t skipped a year, so we’ll be working to retroactively adjust all single year references to the corresponding year reflecting the new policy.

There may be some transitional confusion, but in a society that has become accustomed to routinely receiving subscription magazines well over a month before the date reflected on the cover, I suspect our followers will quickly adapt, and the resulting clarity will only help.

The results of the QS World University Rankings 2018 will be published on on June 8.

Happy New Year!


The Trump Effect on America’s Higher Education System

What happens when one of the most controversial candidates in recent political history is elected to presidency in the United States of America? According to the World Wide Web, and a considerable number of hashtags, the Trump Effect is born. But what exactly is the Trump Effect and what does it mean for America’s higher education system?

The term emerged after a report by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools.” The report claimed Trump’s campaign had caused racial tension to surface in America’s classrooms. Subsequently, the term has been adopted more broadly to refer to Trump’s impact on different aspects of the education system – including American universities.

Within his first week as President, Trump moved quickly to deliver one of his presidential campaign’s key promises; the controversial ‘Muslim ban’, which had sparked global outrage. The ban involved temporarily blocking citizens from seven countries (each with Muslim-majority populations) such as Syria, Iran, Libya, and Iraq, from entering America.

Although the ban’s legality is still contested, the executive order has seen immediate consequences. A survey conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars (AACRAO) found that nearly 40% of colleges are receiving fewer international applicants; put simply, the Trump Effect in action. The Middle East shows the most significant decline, with potential students fearing an unwelcoming environment bolstered by Trump’s racially motivated rhetoric.

“A number of my non-white peers (especially from the seven countries [singled out for the ban] or with precarious immigration status) have felt unsafe”, says Miranda, a British MA student studying anthropology in New York.

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QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017: An Overview

The QS World University Rankings by Subject, by far the richest global measure of higher education performance, have just been published for the seventh time. They contain details of university standing in 46 subjects, four of them new this year.

The subjects analysed in these rankings cover the vast majority of academic teaching and research. The rankings include a total of 13,930 positions, making them a uniquely valuable resource for students seeking the best place to fulfil their educational ambitions.

The four new subjects for 2017 are Anatomy, previously ranked within our overall Medicine ranking; Hospitality and Leisure Management; Sports-related subjects; and Theology, Divinity, and Religious Studies. The addition of Anatomy means that we now rank the Medical and Life Sciences in nine separate categories, ranging from Agriculture to Dentistry. Top for Anatomy are the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, followed by McGill in Canada.

Like our established ranking of the performing arts, our new ranking of Hospitality and Leisure management offers a fascinating glimpse of institutions which would not normally figure in a global university ranking. Number one here is the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, making its only appearance anywhere in these tables. The top 20 also contains six specialist hospitality institutions based in Switzerland.

Our new ranking of Sports-related Subjects assesses both the medical and physiological aspects of sport and its management. Its inclusion reflects the vast professionalisation of sport in recent years. Loughborough in the UK is top of this league. It is the alma mater of many leading UK athletes, and its present and former students collected 34 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics. Sydney and Queensland, both in Australia, take the next two places.

Most of the top universities for Theology, Divinity, & Religious Studies are ancient establishments, often with a history as religious foundations. Our leading institution for religion, Harvard, is even named after a priest, its founder John Harvard.

The methodology remains identical to that used in 2016, allowing a direct comparison with last year’s results. The first two elements we use to produce them are the opinions of academics and employers around the world, using the surveys that are also the core of our overall World University Rankings. The Academic Survey measures which universities are regarded as top for scholarship and research by informed colleagues around the world. Our Employer Survey simply asks where recruiters find the best graduates. We place a higher weight on the opinion of employers who hire graduates in specific disciplines than we do those who hire across the full range of subjects.

To these two measures we add a further two which reward the production of original knowledge. One asks how often papers in specific subjects in the scholarly literature are cited by other researchers around the world, a standard measure of research impact. The other is the H-Index, a measure of the breadth and depth of scholarly publishing.  If the University of Xanadu has published 19 papers on chemistry with at least 19 citations each, its H-Index for chemistry is 19.

Our findings confirm the overall world dominance of big, old universities in Europe and North America, but it also contains some surprises. Singapore has two top-10 institutions for Materials Science, confirming the success of Singapore’s heavy investment in this technology. And as in previous years, we find that Cape Town is a world top-10 university for Development Studies. It is one of five South African universities in the top 100 for this subject, and they are joined by institutions in Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico and Uganda.

Martin Ince
QS Advisory Board


QS announce new partnership with Enago

It has been well established that researchers whose first language is not English are at a considerable disadvantage in promoting their work. The likelihood of acceptance by a top international journal is reduced when submissions are poorly written and papers published in other languages tend to be less well-read than those in English.

A new service to be offered by QS and Enago, the leading provider of authorship services for the global research community, will offer a solution. Improved success rates should benefit individual researchers and universities, who will feel the benefit of increased citation counts in rankings.

Since 2005, Enago has worked with more than 100,000 researchers in at least 125 countries, improving the communication of their research and helping them to achieve success in international publications. The company has offices in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Istanbul, and New York, and operates globally, with regional teams supporting researchers locally.

Under this collaboration, authors worldwide can access Enago’s range of pre-submission editing services. Three levels of collaboration are available, ranging from straightforward language checking to copy-editing and more substantive review.

Papers submitted for the copy-editing service will be returned free from language errors and suitable for publication in SCI indexed journals. The premium editing service is tailored to high-impact, peer-reviewed international journals, focusing on the logic, structure and presentation of manuscripts as well as all aspects of copy editing.

Jason Newman, Global Commercial Director of the QS Intelligence Unit, said: “QS has always advised higher education institutions to improve their international research output as part of overall internationalization and we are pleased to now offer comprehensive support by partnering with Enago. We encourage the importance of publishing cutting-edge research and opinions from across the globe, and are happy that we are now able to increase our support for our partner universities.”

Rajiv Shirke, Vice President for Global Operations at Enago, said: “Enago is delighted to be collaborating with a forward-thinking organization like QS to improve universities’ research output. Having easy access to the manuscript preparation services provided by Enago will not only accelerate the process of publishing high-impact research but also ensure that specific author needs are taken care of during the editorial process.”

Full details are available at