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
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.
On 1st July 2017, Carrie Lam, the first female Chief Executive of Hong Kong quoted 2 QS rankings in her inauguration speech in front of China President Xi Jinping and 2,000 VIP guests to highlight 20 years education achievements of HK since its handover to China.
In her inaugural speech, Lam vowed to repay the trust and support of the people and the central government’s support with “with diligence and achievements”.
She said, “On this important day marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, and as witnessed by all here present, I have been sworn in by the President of the People’s Republic of China as the fifth-term Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It is with a humble heart that I accept this greatest honour of my life and prepare to take on the greatest challenge in my public service career. Over the next five years I will respond to the trust and support placed in me by the people of Hong Kong and the Central People’s Government with diligence and achievements of the governing team under my leadership”.
When reflecting on the achievements HK has achieved in the past 20 years returning to China, she said:
“Hope propels a society forward, and confidence is the foundation of hope. We have no reason to lose confidence if we look closely and rationally at what we have achieved over the past two decades since our return to the Motherland”. She started to list all the achievements HK has got on its economy, finance, an the rule of law and safety. She concluded this section by quoting 2 QS universities rankings to highlight the education achievements of HK since returning to China in 1997:
“Five of our universities rank among the world’s top 100, and the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong is the best dental school in the world”.
Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, said, “It is a tremendous honour to hear that 2 QS university rankings was quoted by the new Chief Executive of HK in her inauguration speech, as the only benchmark, to prove 20 years education achievement of HK since handover to China. HK is one of the best place in the world for higher education. I look forward to the opportunity to working more closely with each of the HK university and the government in further strengthening their international competitiveness across all key subjects areas!”
On 8th June 2017, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, said in an interview with Ta Kung Pao, the oldest active Chinese language newspaper in China, that “Three out of five Hong Kong Universities which are ranked within the global top 100 were established less than 50 years ago. That is mainly due to HK’s unique advantage of geographic location and prosperity of its economy. HK have been able to cultivated some of the world’s best universities in a short time with its big research impact, strong innovation, truly international environment, and the ability to attract some of the top talents from around the world. Its influence is increasingly felt globally. The Dentistry of Hong Kong University has twice been ranked as the world’s No.1 has again demonstrated the unrivalled world-class excellence of Hong Kong higher education system. Hong Kong Universities are going to continue its leading position in more cutting-edge subjects soon“.
The full inauguration speech can be found here.
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
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. – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-40187452. 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 webometrics.info features 26,368 institutions (www.webometrics.info)
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.