Gameplay inadvisable

Well, well, well…

Perhaps it is a surprise that this didn’t happen earlier but we have our first case of a university overtly writing to academics around the world to solicit positive response to our survey. The university in question have, it would seem, written to every academic contact they can track down with very explicit, if inaccurate, instructions on how to complete our survey in their favour.

It is a credit to the academic community at large that this has not occurred earlier in our history and also a credit that three separate individuals have written to me to inform me of these emails.

So – now we have to initiate a policy and since we may not be able to distinguish solicited responses from genuine ones, the position we should take seems clear:

Any institution found attempting to solicit particular response to one of our surveys will now have all of their responses for the given survey in the given year discarded.

The rankings are increasingly well-referenced and relied upon by a variety of stakeholders – including prospective students – around the world. We can and will not tolerate any attempt to manipulate them to portray anything other than their natural conclusion. The rankings have also led to a reality where the QS Intelligence Unit has become exceptionally well connected and, as a result, an attempt on any scale to solicit response is almost guaranteed to be brought to our attention. It’s not worth it.

Besides – I imagine that the majority of academics are LESS likely to respond favourably upon receipt of this kind of invitation.

Naturally, given our record response levels in 2010 – which we expect to exceed in 2011 – such a campaign would have to be extremely successful to have a noticeable impact on our ranking results.

See updated policy on this matter here

HE News Brief 8.2.11

by Abby Chau

  • With 45% of young people now vying for a place at university, competition is at its toughest. The Russell Group has just announced a list of A-level subjects which would make students more competitive at finding a place at top universities.  At least two core subjects such as English, maths, biology, chemistry, and geography are advised to be taken. This announcement comes at a time when a report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute shows that in 2003, 6% of applicants were not offered a place and in 2010, this has more than doubled to 14%.  The applicants who did not find a place were more likely to be less qualified.
    Full Story: The Economist
  • The Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services recently announced a drastic 75% decrease in the number of foreign applications to the fall semester. This is the first test of a series of new fees which includes application and tuition fees for foreign applicants. Non-EU, E.E.A or Swiss applicants must now pay $140 in application costs and some universities are able to ask them to cough up approximately $30,000 in tuition fees. Tuula Kuosmanen, director of the agency, said that Denmark saw a similar decline in foreign applications when they introduced fees in 2006, but applications eventually recovered.
    Full Story:  New York Times
    Read more

HE News Brief 16.11.10

by Abby Chau

  • Ranking-related news this past week includes musings across the pond regarding university rankings and their foothold in higher education. The French government has just published a new rankings based on 43,000 graduate students surveyed from 63 of the country’s 83 institutions. Paris-XI, Lyon I, and Rennes I ranked the highest, respectively. The findings come at a time when President Sarkozy is ramping up his government’s pledge to grant the country’s universities more autonomy. Some praise the findings, saying that the rankings show that universities must develop career services to help graduates find jobs. Critics of the rankings are dismayed by what they see as yet another exercise to try to homogenise a disparate and unique higher education university system. Some universities like Jussieu, based in Paris, and Dauphine refused to participate in the rankings.
    Full Story: New York Times
    More: New York Times

  • Indian Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal and UK’s universities minister David Willets have recently announced that higher education expenditure will grow annually by 13% in the next decade. Since the 1950s, the number of institutions in India have dramatically augmented, from 28 to 504. Still despite this enormous boom, the country is still 800 universities short to accommodate the growing middle class who are now eyeing higher education as a means to a fruitful future. In 1981, the average Indian household was spending 1.46% on education, now that number has risen to 7.5%.
    Full Story: University World News
    More: Livemint
    Read more

2010 QS World University Subject Rankings

Our 2010 Subject Rankings are hot off the press – go to for more results including for subject areas like Engineering and the Sciences.

Arts & Humanities
2010 2009 Instititution Name Country/Territory
1 2 University of Oxford GB
2 3 University of Cambridge GB
3 1 Harvard University US
4 4 University of California, Berkeley (UCB) US
5 5 Yale University US
6 6 Princeton University US
7 9 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) US
8 7 Stanford University US
9 8 University of Chicago US
10 10 Columbia University US
11 11 University of Toronto CA
12 25 UCL (University College London) GB
13 21 Université Paris Sorbonne, Paris 4 FR
14 24 University of Edinburgh GB
15 18 New York University (NYU) US
16 14= Cornell University US
17 12 Australian National University (ANU) AU
18 26 University of Michigan US
19 19 University of Sydney AU
20 13 University of Tokyo, The JP

2010 QS World University Rankings results

Here is a fuller look – positions 300 to 320 – at our 2010 results; for more rankings (including the full list of the top 500 universities) go to

2010 2009 Institution Name
300= 322 Università di Pisa
300= Tokyo Medical and Dental University
302 299 Massey University
303 401-450 University of Jyväskylä
304 302= Jagiellonian University
305 273= University of Essex
306 259= University of Utah
307 234= Ateneo de Manila University
308 328= University of Eastern Finland
309 314= Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
310 346= Ruhr-Universität Bochum
311 335 Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IITKGP)
312 346= Universität Konstanz
313 331= University of Oulu
314 262= University of the Philippines
315 357= Universität des Saarlandes
316= 342 Universität Bielefeld
316= 314= University of Waikato
318 307= Chiba University
319 345 Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
320 326= University of Tasmania

2010 QS World University Rankings® Video – US and Canadian focussed

Want a deeper insight into the 2010 QS World University Ranking results?

Nunzio Quacquarelli, Managing Director of QS Quacquarelli Symonds, gives a brief description of the QS World University Rankings®.

Ben Sowter, Head of the QS Intelligence Unit, talks about the overall trends in this year’s Rankings and discusses the movements of Canadian Universities.

John O’Leary, executive member of the QS Academic Advisory Board, talks about the performance of US universities.

Latin America, an under explored territory for global education.

Latin America may not be considered a first choice by international students for academic exchange, and global universities do not seem to consider this part of the world as a priority for the development of exchange partnerships.  Why this is the case leads one to ask the following:  is there a global understanding of the Latin American educational systems, quality of their programs or administration processes, or is it merely a matter of location? Perhaps, Latin America is seen more as a holiday hotspot rather than a strategic choice to strengthen career prospects.

There are some interesting facts about the region. Public expenditure in education is significant in Cuba and Bolivia where it makes up 9.1% and 6.1% of their national budget respectively. These represent higher proportions than in the  USA (5.3%), UK (5.6%), and France (5.7%) in the same year of reference. Furthermore, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Paraguay all invest at least 4% in education. Mexico, in particular, has made major and consistent investments in education during recent years; their proportion of GDP in 2005 was 5.5%.

In most cases, universities that profile in the QS World RankingTM Top 400 are based in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. For example, UNAM, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Universidad Austral,  Universidad de Sao Paulo, UNICAMP and Universidad de Chile.

As indicated by the Chilean journal America Economia in their annual ranking for business schools in the region, there are highly qualified and recognised business schools for almost every country of the region among others, (see table below), that foster exchange programs with well known universities particularly in Europe and USA, such as ESADE in Spain, HEC in France, HHL in Germany and any others in the USA as Arizona State University, Tulane University, University of Texas at Austin among others.

Country University
Colombia Universidad de los Andes
Costa Rica INCAE
Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC)
Brazil Fundação Getulio Vargas
México Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)
Venezuela Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion
Argentina IAE

Latin-America’s largest populations are mainly concentrated in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, representing 70% of the region, with 396.5 million inhabitants. Despite the world economic crisis over the last year, the region has experienced an important growth of 4% GDP on average, with Peru, Panama and Argentina growing at 9.9%, 9.2% and 6.8% respectively.

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world as mother tongue, after Chinese, by 329 million people in 44 countries and these figures will likely increase as there are already around 14 million students around the world learning Spanish as a second language by 2008**. This number will also rapidly increase since, in 2010, Brazil – one of the most populated and market oriented countries in the region – made Spanish a compulsory language to learn in classrooms from the age of 7. It is expected that in just a few short years an additional 41 million Brazilians under 17 will be able to read and speak Spanish. In the United States, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by over 34 million people aged 5 or older, representing over 12% of the population.  In states such as New Mexico, California and Texas more than 30% of the population speaks Spanish***. Read more

Simplicity is a valuable asset

by Ben Sowter


Rankings of anything seem very good at attracting attention, and the simpler they are the more easily and effectively they draw attention. If anyone has ever told a clever joke and then been called upon to explain it you will understand what I am referring to, by the time your audience has understood the joke it has ceased to fulfil its primary purpose – to make people laugh.

There is a great deal of chatter online at the moment – speculation about what newly released rankings might look like, what will be included and what won’t the new THE/Thomson exercise and the CHERPA project through the European Commission are generating particular speculation. The premise on which both of these projects are being discussed is that existing rankings do not fairly measure every aspect of university quality, nor do they recognise the differing nature and structure of different institutions.

Any ranking operated on a global level will be constrained by the quality and quantity of data available and the opinion of its designers and contributors. The worrying trend at the moment is that two underlying assumptions seem to be beginning to resonate throughout this discussion:

  1. There is a “perfect solution” – or at least one that will meet with dramatically higher acceptance than those already put forward, and;
  2. The stakeholders in rankings are like lemmings and will automatically accept the conclusions of one, or the average of all rankings they consider respectable

The CHE is at the opposite end of the scale to Shanghai and QS methodologies – it gathers masses of data from Germany and surrounding countries but doesn’t actually rank institutions or aggregate indicators – their argument, and perhaps it is a valid one, is that it is not for them to decide what represents quality in the mind of the average stakeholder – particularly students. Fair enough but, broadly speaking, the more proscriptive rankings are not making this assertion either. To my knowledge neither Shanghai Jiao Tong nor QS have ever asserted that their results should be used as the only input to important decisions – the responsibility for such decisions remain the responsibility of the individual making them. Read more

QS Classifications

by Ben Sowter


The THE – QS World University Rankings attract a great deal of interest and scrutiny each year, one piece of frequent feedback is the comparing “apples with oranges” observation. The simple fact is that the London School of Economics bears little resemblance to Harvard University in terms of funding, scale, location, mission, output or virtually any other aspect one may be called upon to consider – so how is it valid to include them both in the same ranking. They do, however, both aim to teach students and produce research and it has always been the assertion of QS and Times Higher Education that this ought to provide a sufficient basis for comparison.

In essence, it is a little like comparing sportspeople from different disciplines in a “World’s greatest sportsperson” or “World’s greatest Olympian” ranking which so frequently emerge. How is it possible to compare a swimmer with a rower with a boxer with a football player? Yet such comparisons have fuelled passionate conversation all over the world. The difference, perhaps, is that in that context those talking are aware of who represents what sport. That is where the classifications come in – they are a component appearing in the tables from 2009 that help the user distinguish the boxers from footballers, so to speak.

The Berlin Principles (a set of recommendations for the delivery of university rankings) assert that any comparative exercise ought to take into account the different typologies of its subject institutions, whilst an aggregate list will continue to be produced it will now feature labels so that institutions (and their stakeholders) of different types can easily understand their performance not only overall but also with respect to institutions of a similar nature.

Based very loosely on the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in the US, but operated on a much simpler basis, these classifications take into account three key aspects of each university to assign their label.

  1. Size – based on the (full time equivalent) size of the degree-seeking student body. Where an FTE number is not provided or available, one will be estimated based on common characteristics of other institutions in the country or region in question
  2. Subject Range – four categories based on the institution’s provision of programs in the five broad faculty areas used in the university rankings. Due to radically different publication habits and patterns in medicine, an additional category is added based on whether the subject institution has a medical school
  3. Research Activity Level – four levels of research activity evaluated based on the number of documents retrievable from Scopus in the five year period preceding the application of the classification. The thresholds required to reach the different levels are different dependent on the institutions pre-classification on aspects 1 and 2.

This will result in each subject institution being grouped under a simple alpha-numeric classification code (i.e. A1 or H3. Table 1 lays out the thresholds for the application of the classifications. Read more