The twelfth edition of the QS World University Rankings is now online.
We pride ourselves on keeping the Rankings methodology as stable as possible, so that the results provide a genuine year-on-year comparison of the world’s top universities. But this year we have made a few improvements, one of them especially important, to our methodology.
The significant change we have made concerns our measure of academic paper citations per faculty member. This accounts for 20 per cent of each university’s possible rankings score. As before, we have used five years of publications data from the Scopus database as the foundation for this figure. However, we have long recognised that this approach favours institutions with a substantial commitment to the Life Sciences and Medicine, which account for 49 per cent of the citations in Scopus.
The methodology used to create the World University Rankings uses six robust measures which encapsulate the principal activities of global higher education. These measures are unchanged for the new 2015/16 Rankings. But as we explain here, the use we make of the data we collect has been improved markedly this year.
The first two of these measures involve asking informed people to identify the high points of the world university system. We do this by means of two annual surveys, one of active academics around the world, and one of recruiters. The academics are asked what their subject is and where the top 30 universities are in that field, although they tend to vote for a median of about 20. They cannot vote for their own institution. The employers are asked to name the subject or subjects in which they recruit graduates, and where they like to recruit them. These two measures account for 40 per cent and 10 per cent respectively of each institution’s possible score in this ranking.
Anyone who has seen me present will know that one of my most frequently used quotes is from the US statistician, George Box, said, “Essentially all models are wrong, but some are useful”. Rankings are controversial as much because they are imperfect, incomplete as anything else. Were there a perfect answer, and had someone found it, there would be no space for debate, discussion and disagreement.
The QS World University Rankings were one of the first, and remain one of the most popular, international rankings of universities. Part of this popularity has been in their simplicity and part in their consistency – six weighted indicators drawn together to present a simple table representing a global hierarchy of world universities.
Despite the basic framework remaining the same since 2005, QS has not been afraid to listen and make refinements. Switching to Elsevier’s Scopus database in 2007 was one such change. One of the well-known challenges in developing metrics from a bibliometric database like Scopus is taking into account the different patterns of publication and citation across discipline areas. Various efforts have been made to address this problem, perhaps with the Leiden Ranking being the leading protagonist. Read more
From a certain perspective, the work we do at a discipline level ought to be easy. After all, we don’t seek data directly from institutions to compile our rankings by subject which removes a major data collection and validation overhead. However, the scale of the output, in our terms is vast. Our main ranking aggregates performance in 6 indicators for just over 800 institutions and thus comprises around 5,000 individual processed data points; by contrast our rankings by subject use up to four indicators in 36 subjects for up to 400 published results. All in all the full analysis involves well over 40,000 processed data points.
Picking out trends, calibrating the approach, and identifying issues is a major effort. An effort which, I must confess, we underestimated in 2015.
In the coming days we will be releasing fact file information for the new version of the results prior to publication on April 29, and we expect to be similarly beset by questions as to how the results have been formed, what’s changed since the previous fact files we distributed, what can be inferred based on year on year performance and so forth. We’re aiming to give ourselves a little more time to get back to institutions with answers to their specific questions, but the most frequently asked questions are likely to be, what has changed since the previous version?
A substantial majority of institutions have been remarkably constructive and supportive despite previous results, in some cases, appearing to be dramatic downward departure from the previous year. The feedback has been precise, intelligent and constructive with many very specific observations which have been invaluable in our process rebuild. The international forum we ran in Sydney last month, was one of the most engaging events I have had the pleasure to attend. I personally experienced a surprising degree of empathy. There seemed to be a genuine understanding of the fact that this is and has been pioneering work, that it is deeply complex. It also provided us with an invaluable opportunity to listen to genuine experts in their field about what we are doing and how it could be improved – above and beyond any observed concerns about this edition.
We are committed to maintaining an active dialogue with as many stakeholders as possible and deeply appreciate the volume and nature of feedback we have received around this. We have listened, and we have taken the opportunity not only to identify and address some issues with this year’s edition but also to introduce some further refinements based on feedback, which I feel genuinely improves the work.
Our advisory board have also been supportive of the refinements.
The five key changes since the previously distributed, but unpublished, version, have been:
- The reintroduction of a regional weighting component in our survey analysis which had been inadvertently omitted
- The refinement of our analysis of the Scopus bibliometric database to address an issue where, in some instances, we had been counting articles only in the first subject to which they were categorized
- The adjustment of weightings in a further six subjects – making a total of nine subjects with modified weightings in 2015 – typically in favour of the citations and H measures – these changes are supported by the higher volumes of content from Scopus we have been able to retrieve in 2015
- The reinstatement of a paper threshold of 10 papers for English, and elevation of paper thresholds in Politics and History reflecting the higher volumes of research we are now taking into account
- The extension of our academic and employer survey samples to five years, with the earlier years weighted at 25% and 50% respectively. This stabilizes some of the subjects with lower levels of response and increases our total survey samples for this exercise to 85,062 academics and 41,910 employers
Once the fact files are distributed we will make ourselves available to answer specific enquiries and are currently in the process of scheduling some dedicated webinars to explain the developments in more detail – these will be announced soon. We have already made some changes to our methodology pages and updated response levels, weightings and paper thresholds as well as publishing our map of the ASJC codes used to allocate Scopus content to subjects. Read more here.
On 23th Febuary, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, was invited to an event where Angel Gurría Secretary-General of OECD was giving a City Lecture hosted by Official Monetary and Financial Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum(OMFIF) The Livery Hall of London, UK.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was founded after WWII, in 1948 to run the US-financed Marshall Plan for reconstruction of Europe. Since 1961 when the new OECD Convention was implemented, OECD has grown to become an influential international economic organisation of 34 countries, supporting economic progress and world trade. Through close working partnership with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, OECD actively engage 40 countries that account for 80% of world trade and investment.
Angel spent about half an hour talking about his view on efficient measures to attract global investments to bring about stronger, fairer and greener economic growth around the world. He had quoted a lot of figures in his speech to highlight the importance of productivity in boosting long term economic growth around the world.
He stressed many times in his speech the reasons that many countries in the world now start to experience slow growth economy- It is mainly because of productivity issue in the labour force-not since the financial crisis in 2008 , but long before that.
To order to enhance productivity, education is positioned at the centre, to support innovation, entrepreneurship, skills of labour markets, research, knowledge transfer. He used the example of Greece to highlight the issue of how low productivity has impacted on its economy.
The OECD Secretary General believed that now it would be the right time to encourage countries to develop a knowledge-driven economy, with more investments to strengthened infrastructure and better finance to support SMEs are all important to enhance productivity of countries, and hence boost long term economic growth.
On infrastructure, he said that measures should be developed to encourage more private sector to actively participate in infrastructure investment through the Public Private Partnerships (PPP).
Questions to the OECD Secretary General
As always, I was the first to raise the hand to ask the VIP speaker a question. I did think about asking him a question on education related question. But since he had spent so much time talking about the importance of productivity and the role of education in supporting. It might sound a bit repetitive in doing that. Therefore, I said: “Mr. Secretary General, you know it is now Chinese New Year now. While people around the world are celebrating Chinese New Year, many policies makers around the world are also discussing the Chinese Economy, which has grown into a ‘New Normal’stage, with slightly slower but healthy economic growth as proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. What is your view on the Chinese Economy with the ‘New Normal’growth, and how would that impact on our discussion today-global investments to support a stronger, fairer and greener growth”.
Clearly, the OECD Secretary General is very optimistic about the Chinese economy. He said that “The Chinese Economy with an annual growth rate of 7% is sustainable”. He thought the Chinese government is obviously very modest about their own economic forecast-“When President Xi Jinping said that the Chinese Economy would maintain about 7%, that is probably means the Chinese economy would remained at about 7.5% growth a year”. “They always tend to low-down the economic growth. That is very smart.If you end up 7.2%a year, you could say you over-shot the proper target”. China’s GDP grew at 7.4% last year”. “At such a growth rate, It does not let you lose any credibility. This is especially useful if you moderate the speed of growth. I think 7% growth is sustained and is good, which is normal, which is proper.I think anyone who thought they would be able to sustain 11% growth every year is not sustainble”. In conclusion, he said, “The current Chinese economy is stronger, fairer and greener growth”.
After the lecture, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang had enjoyed a interesting discussion with Angel Gurría Secretary-General of OECD on potential opportunities for OECD to work with QS on education related projects. Mr Secretary-General of OECD was very interested in what QS have been doing on the World University Ranking. He was very happy to be given the QS World University Ranking 10 Years Anniversary Book and a supplement of the QS World University Honoured. The Secretary General said he would like to ask Andreas Schleicher – Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at OECD to get in touch and explore opportunities working together.
(Angel Gurría Secretary-General of OECD took a photo with Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, holding both QS World University Ranking 2014 Supplement and QS World University Ranking 10 Years Anniversary Book, as a special recognition of the great work QS has been doing in the world of higher education)
On 16 and 17th May, 2011, UNESCO together with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank organized the ‘Global Forum on Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education: Uses and Misuses’ at its Paris Headquarters when Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit was invited to speak on the QS World University Ranking.
Inspired by the Forum, a book “Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education: Uses and Misuses” brings together all key opinion leaders on universities rankings worldwide to reflect the wide range of views that exist in the higher education community was published. Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit is invited to contribute Chapter 3 in Part One: Methodological Consideration explaining how QS World University Rankings have been developed over 10 years. This book is launched on Friday 28 June 2013, at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, as the first of a series of studies to consider trends in education today and challenges for tomorrow.
In addition, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, was previously invited to sit on the Education Committee of UNESCO UK National Commission 2010-2011, to discuss a wide range of global policies on education, including being recommended by UNESCO UK National Commission to represent the UK to contribute to the policy formation of World Bank Education Strategy 2020 Learning For All.
QS would like to draw the attention of UK higher education leaders about this exciting opportunity to get involved in UNESCO UK National Commission. If you are a high education leader outside UK, please check the website of UNESCO on opportunities available in your own country. Hope you would find this information useful.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a UN Specialized Agency which contributes to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, culture, sciences, and communication.
2. The UK National Commission for UNESCO:
The UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC) is the main organisation in UK to discuss and coordinate all UNESCO-related policies and activities on education, culture, the sciences and communication. It works in partnership with all relevant UK Government and civil society.
3. UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks:
In 1992, UNESCO established chairs and UNITWIN Networks to advance research, training and programme development in UNESCO’s fields of competence.
Currently, there are 819 UNESCO Chairs and 68 UNITWIN Networks established worldwide including over 854 institutions in 134 countries.
In the UK, there are 13 UNESCO Chairs and three UNITWIN Networks established in the UK.
The UK National Commission for UNESCO is calling for applications for the 2015 intake of UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks.
Outline proposals is 29 January 2015
Full proposals is 12 March 2015.
6. How to apply
All UK higher education institutions wishing to apply for the UNESCO Chairs or UNITWIN Networks Programmes must submit their application through the UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC). All proposals will be evaluated by the UKNC through a two-stage peer-review process.
7. Useful links
8. More information
For more information, please contact Andrea Blick at the UK National Commission for UNESCO at firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7766 3491
On 27th November, 2014, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, was invited to attend 2 lectures at Oxford University.
This lecture featuring speeches by the presidents of two leading universities in China, Prof. Peng Long, President of Beijing Foreign Studies University and Prof. Zhang Jie, President of Shanghai Jiaotong University.
(A photo of St Anne College, Oxford University)
The event took place at St Anne’s College, Oxford University. Being one of Oxford’s largest colleges, with some 420 undergraduates and 250 graduates, St Anne’s College aims to “prepare the students for the globally connected society of the future“. Maybe, there could not be a better place in Oxford to host those two distinguished Presidents of Chinese leading Universities.
There are about 100 Chinese students and staff who are studying/working at Oxford who attended the lectures. Besides leading Chinese media organisations based in the UK, QS is only external organisations invited to this interesting event.
Founded in 1941, the Beijing Foreign Studies University is the first foreign language university and offering the most language programs in the China. It is a small and specialised university, with only 7,000 registered students(5,000 are full-time undergraduates, 1,000 graduate students, and 1,000 overseas students). However, being the top Chinese universities specialised in foreign language cultivation(teaching 58 languages). By 2020, BFSU plans to teach 70 languages, with the ultimate goal of 90. With 80,000 alumni, more than 400 graduates become ambassadors, 1000 graduates become counsellors and therefore BFSU is dubbed the “diplomat’s cradle” of China.
The event started with President Peng Long talking on “The Chinese Economic Transformation- Characteristics of the Third Waves of Chinese Economic Reform”. President Peng is a known expert in China on International Finance and Stock Investment. He is also the Vice Chairman of China Association of International Trade, which is the professional body for experts in China on international trade.
(President Peng Long, Beijing Foreign Studies University spoke on “The Chinese Economic Transformation- Characteristics of the Third Waves of Chinese Economic Reform” at Oxford University)
He was very charismatic, he started his speech with a joke, “although I was responsible for one of the most prestigious Chinese universities on foreign language studies, I myself is not good at speaking English. I was too nervous last night to fall asleep because I was so busy practising my speech in English. I was much more relieved that I was told earlier that I could speak Chinese”, everyone in the lecture broke into laughters. President Peng, gave a very brave and frank speech to the audience, on his understanding of all the major economic reforms since the foundation of the PRC, especially the opening-up of the 1978, as well as the latest proposal of the Central Chinese Government to upgrade its industrial structure to be more innovation and knowledge driven. The audience was very impressed by his speech, some of the current Oxford students even start to ask questions to the President about how to become a staff of the university when they finished their studies at Oxford!
Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director enjoyed an interesting conservation with Prof. Peng Long, BFSU President on the international strategy. President Peng was surprised to find that Dr. Christina Yan Zhang was from Nanjing-a city where he had been working for a long time during his academic career. He extended an invitation to Dr. Christina Yan Zhang and asked her to visit him and other senior leaders of Beijing Foreign Studies University when she was in Beijing again. Dr. Christina Yan Zhang accepted the invite and wish President Peng every success in his role leading the university to an unprecedented new height.
The second speaker of the day is Prof. Zhang Jie, the President of Shanghai Jiaotong University, a top 5 Chinese university(based on QS World University Ranking )who gave a speech on “University Governance: the people-oriented incentives system ”. Dr. Christina Yan Zhang also enjoyed a great conversation with Prof. Zhang Jie, who kindly agreed to meet her and Ben Sowter, Head of QS Intelligence Unit the following day in London despite packed timetable flying back home in China.
(Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, as an invited VIP guest that night, was introduced to Prof. Zhang Jie, President, Shanghai Jiaotong University, one of the top Chinese mainland universities.)