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QS World University Rankings: 15th Edition Overview

 

The QS World University Rankings 2019, published this month, is the fifteenth edition so far. When the first emerged in 2004, George W Bush, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder were heads of government in the US, the UK and Germany. They are all long gone, and this year’s edition is released into a vastly different geopolitical environment.

International higher education, too, was a very different place at this time. Available figures indicate that fewer than three million people were studying outside their home country in 2004. Today, the figure is in excess of five million, after years of steady growth that defied the global financial crisis of 2008.

The QS ranking methodology has only changed incrementally over time: perhaps the most notable change was the addition of the QS Employer Survey in 2005. But the amount of data available to us to compile these rankings has increased massively since 2004. For example, the 2019 rankings include the results of completed surveys from 84,000 academic experts and 43,000 employers. In 2004, we received responses from just 1,300 academics. This exponential increase in our rankings dataset means we can now justify ranking 1,000 universities – a fivefold increase on our first edition.

A look at our 2004 results alongside the new version shows that, despite methodological changes and ambitious strategies from governments across the world, an elite group of universities have consistently retained their ascendancy. Most are private US institutions: Harvard, top in 2004, is now third, while this year’s global leader, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was in third place then. Also in the top 10 in both years were Stanford and the California Institute of Technology.

However, one definite trend observable throughout the development of these rankings is the steady decline of the US state university system. Even its most prestigious institution, the University of California at Berkeley, is not immune. In second place in 2004, it was sixth by 2005 and is 27th today.

The dominance of big US and UK universities is also a constant of the global rankings era. In 2004, 11 of the top 20 were in the US, as were four – Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Imperial College, London – from the UK. Today, the top 20 includes 11 US universities and five from the UK – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, University College London and Edinburgh. And in both years, ETH Zurich was the top continental European institution, 10th in 2004 and seventh today.

Much has been written about the apparently inexorable rise of Asian institutions in university rankings, and we see it at work here. In 2004, we listed 26 Asian universities, starting with Tokyo in 12th place. Peking was 17th and Tsinghua 61st. The National University of Singapore was 18th and Nanyang Technological University, 50th. This time round we have 38 Asian institutions in our top 200. Tokyo is now 23rd, but NUS and Nanyang are 11th and 12th respectively. Peking is 30th and has been replaced as China’s top institution by Tsinghua, now 17th in the QS World University Rankings. Also notable is the growth in standing of Korean universities. Seoul National University was 118th in 204 and KAIST was 160th. This year, we place them in 36th and 40th positions respectively.  As a continent, Asia has increased its number of top-50 universities by 50% – from 8 in 2004 to 12 in 2018.

However, there might be reason to wonder if Asia’s top institutions have also reached – whether temporarily or otherwise – a ceiling. In 2004, the continent had three universities among the global top 20 – the same number as it possesses in 2018. Asia has undoubtedly gained ground, but the uppermost echelons of the QS World University Rankings remain, at least for now, predominantly Anglosphere.

Article written by Martin Ince

 

 

 

Higher Education World, June 2018: Foreword

When the first QS World University Rankings (QSWUR) were published in 2004, sceptics were surprised that as many as 29 countries were represented among a total of 200 institutions. The 15th edition, released this month, contains 1,000 universities for the first time, hailing from no fewer than 85 countries.

This edition of Higher Education World focuses mainly on that landmark edition, which is headed once again by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a record-breaking seventh consecutive year at number-one. We examine the changes the ranking has seen and the shifts in international higher education it has reflected.

A university’s position in the QSWUR has become an important consideration for prospective international students. But the location of that university also plays a big part in most students’ selection process. We focus, too, on the QS Best Student Cities ranking, which is topped for the first time by London.

By no means everything a student values is ranked, however. Our final topic in this edition is the QS International Student Survey: a report which charts the views of 28,000 young people considering higher education overseas, with the United Kingdom among their options. Up-to-date technology is their top priority, followed closely by the quality of the teaching staff. Most wanted lecturers who were passionate about their subject and a qualification that would boost their career prospects.

Jack Moran
Public Relations Executive
QS Quacquarelli Symonds

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QS World University Rankings by Subject Released Today

This year’s QS World University Rankings by Subject underline the status of Cambridge, Massachusetts as the nerve center of global academic research. Yet they also point to world-leading departments at a surprisingly diverse range of institutions, extending far beyond the big names that tend to dominate overall university rankings.

Home to Harvard and MIT, Cambridge was originally named in honor of the UK’s University of Cambridge, but this year’s results suggest that it has long-since overtaken its namesake when it comes to hosting world-class academic departments. Between them, Harvard and MIT account for 20 of the 30 number one spots. Harvard maintains a slender lead over its neighbor, with 11 top spots to MIT’s nine.

Harvard’s dominance is particularly pronounced in the life sciences, in which it tops four of the five subjects: medicine, psychology, pharmacy, and biological sciences. Harvard is also the pre-eminent institution in the field of social sciences and management, ranking first in five of the eight subjects: sociology, politics, law, economics and accounting.

In the natural sciences, Harvard tops the rankings for mathematics and earth and marine sciences. Perhaps surprisingly, the only discipline area in which it fails to take a single number one ranking is the arts and humanities, though it does make the top five in all but one of the six disciplines.

While Harvard rules the life and social sciences, local rival MIT is the undisputed global powerhouse in engineering and technology, recording a clean sweep of the top spots in four areas of engineering (civil, mechanical, chemical and electrical) plus computer sciences.

Other subjects in which MIT emerges as the world leader include statistics, three of the core science disciplines (physics, materials science and chemistry), plus linguistics – a discipline in which MIT has led the way, most famously through the work of Noam Chomsky, one of the most frequently cited humanities scholars of all time.

The dominance of the Cambridge, Massachusetts institutions is almost total in the STEM disciplines, in which between them they take a remarkable 14 of the 16 top spots. Yet elsewhere the field is surprisingly diverse. Indeed, the University of Oxford is the only other institution to top the table in more than one discipline, ranking number one globally in English, geography and modern languages, all areas of traditional strength.

Big names under threat?

Since their introduction in 2011, QS World University Rankings by Subject have been honed to discriminate more accurately between strength in a particular discipline area and the inflating effect of overall institutional prestige. This is reflected in the disciplines that fall outside of the sphere of Harvard-MIT dominance, in which eight institutions feature at the top of ten different tables.

Of these eight institutions, three are placed in the top ten in the overall QS World University Rankings. Oxford takes three top spots, Cambridge is number one in history, and Stanford University tops the table for statistics. Institutions from outside of the global top 20 take the number one spots in all five of the remaining tables.

Berkeley maintains its top spot for environmental sciences, while its fellow University of California branch UC Davis ranks number one in agriculture. Another of the big US public institutions, University of Wisconsin-Madison leads the way on communications and media studies.

New York University’s reputation as a world leader in philosophy is well established within the field, and it tops this year’s table ahead of Oxford, the University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers. And the UK’s Institute of Education takes its place at the top of the ranking for education, ahead of Australia’s University of Melbourne.

The rankings also point to numerous world-class faculties in Asia-Pacific and Continental Europe, regions that have traditionally been eclipsed by the US and UK in overall rankings.

The most successful universities outside of the US and UK in terms of number top-ten rankings are:

–          National University of Singapore (8)

–          ETH Zurich (4)

–          University of Melbourne (4)

–          University of Tokyo (4)

–          Nanyang Technological University (3)

–          Kyoto University (2)

–          Wageningen University (2)

Other universities to make the global top ten in a single discipline include China’s Tsinghua University (materials science), Hong Kong University (civil engineering) and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute (pharamacy).

A further five Australian institutions make the top ten in one subject (ANU, Monash, University of Sydney, University of Queensland and University of New South Wales), as do two from the Netherlands (University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology).

Latin America’s top-ranking institution is Mexico’s UNAM (25th in history), while Africa’s top institution, the University of Cape Town, makes the top 50 in education, geography, law and English language and literature.

This geographical diversity shows that world-leading work is taking place at an individual discipline level at a far greater range of institutions than overall rankings would have us believe.

 

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2012/13 World University Rankings: More students than ever studying abroad

One of the most notable trends in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings is the massive increase in the number of international students in the world’s highest ranked universities. The total figure has increased by 10 percent at the top 100 universities. This is the biggest rise in the history of the rankings.

And it’s not just the top 100 either. On average, universities in the top 700 now play host to nearly 4% more international students. And when you consider that a record 72 countries are represented, you can really see that, quite simply, more students are studying in more countries.

The rankings can only cover a fraction of the world’s universities, however. For a fuller picture we can look at data released by the OECD (an international trade and research organization), which reveals that in 2010 4.1 million students were studying abroad. This is a rise of 0.4 million since 2009, and truly stunning increase of 99% since 2000. It is predicted that the figure could rise to seven million by 2020. Read more

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HE News Brief 8.5.12

  • US: Heavy hitters team up to offer free online courses
  • Middle East: Spotlight on  teaching quality
  • Brazil: Affirmative action decision upheld by Supreme Court

Prestigious universities in the States are putting their weight behind free online courses. Harvard and MIT have announced a partnership called edX which will begin enrolment this fall. With 60 million dollars to commence the project, the universities will be offering five courses including classes in engineering and humanities. University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Stanford have also announced a partnership recently called Coursera, which will be offering free online courses. Both MIT and Stanford have already pioneered successful free online course offerings, with MITx enrolling 120,000 students and Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence course signing up 160,00 students.

[alert_blue]Full Story: New York Times[/alert_blue]


At a recent conference in Riyadh concerning ‘World-class teaching universities’, the general director for international affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education has highlighted a strategy to becoming a top teaching university. Salim Al Malik called for universities to evaluate teaching quality and to set up learning centres to train staff, as well as, to make teaching training a component of postgraduate studies. Universities, he said, are measured too heavily on research alone and that teaching should not be relegated in the pursuit of becoming a world-class institution.

[alert_blue]Full Story: University World News[/alert_blue]


Brazil has upheld sweeping affirmative action policies in higher education which allows a quota for enrolling students of African or indigenous descent. Now the country, which has more people of African descent than any other country outside Africa, is starting to tackle the economic and social divides that many are saying are linked to racial politics. Supporters of the bill say that they hope this policy will not only tackle social issues but help bridge the learning gap necessary for job creation.

[alert_blue]Full Story: Boston.com[/alert_blue]