QS World University Rankings 2019: Highlights & Methodology

The 15th edition of the QS World University Rankings appeared on June 6. It looks more deeply than any previous version at the global distribution of top higher education institutions, and now ranks 1,000 universities. They are in 85 countries, and 60 of them appear in this ranking for the first time.

These rankings have been compiled using the same methodology as last year, and the upper echelons look much the same as they did in the previous edition. The top four – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Harvard and the California Institute of Technology – are unchanged. Just below them, Oxford and Cambridge have changed places, putting Oxford fifth and Cambridge sixth, and giving Oxford the honour of being the UK’s leading university for the first time since 2004. The top ten is completed by ETH Zurich, up three places to seven; Imperial College and the University of Chicago, unchanged at eight and nine; and University College London, down three places to 10.

As in 2018, the top Asian entrants are both in Singapore. They are the National University of Singapore (11th) and Nanyang Technological University (12th). The top Chinese institution is Tsinghua University, up eight places to 17th. It is now 13 places ahead of its Beijing rival, Peking University. Almost 300 of the 1,000 universities ranked here are in Asia, including 44 in Japan, 40 in mainland China and 30 in Korea.

These rankings are compiled on the basis of six indicators. It is now justifiable to rank 1,000 universities because the QS surveys of academic and employer opinion that account for half of each institution’s possible score now encompass the views of 130,000 people.

To do well, the top universities we see here need to perform well across multiple indicators. Thus, Harvard is top in both our academic survey and our survey of employers. But Harvard is less well-placed on the least heavily-weighted of our measures, international faculty and students, which count for only five per cent each. It is 151th in the world for international faculty and 164th for international students.

Of our other two measures, Caltech is the leading institution from our 1,000 ranked universities when it comes to faculty/student ratio, our indicator of teaching commitment, followed by Yale, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and Oxford. And our key indicator of research impact, citations per faculty member, sees MIT and Harvard in seventh and eighth place, although the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore is top among our 1,000 ranked institutions. Ten of the top 20 on this measure are specialist science and technology institutions, a group that never fails to perform well in these rankings overall.

The dataset that constitutes these rankings also demonstrates the significant increase in global research output. The average institution in this year’s rankings was responsible for just under 5,000 papers across our 2012-2016 window: a year-on-year increase of 12.1%. This increase is yet dwarfed by the rise in the citations footprint of those papers: up 22.2% year-on-year. These observations are conducive to the reiteration of a crucial point about this exercise: as standards continue to rise, institutions across the world are required to improve performance simply to keep pace. This trend seems unlikely to change, and the continued ascendancy of the world’s leading universities is a testament to their unyielding drive for excellence – across all metrics.






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


QS University Rankings: Emerging Europe and Central Asia 2014 Launch, Budapest

The first ranking of its kind, it was launched in a stunning city of Budapest nearing Christmas, on the 17th of December. We evaluated 368 universities from the region and published the Top 100, where 18 countries were represented.

The event was a success with over 90 delegates representing over 40 different organisations from 15 different countries. It was a very busy day filled with presentations from a variety of stakeholders, revelation of the rankings results, a panel discussion, a masterclass on rankings and even some Hungarian folk dancing!

We were hosted by one of the oldest and largest institutions in Hungary, Eotvos Lorand University. They proved to be a fantastic host with a beautiful university:


Our audience was well-prepared, inquisitive and engaged. We received a fantastic presentation from Bogazici University in Turkey sharing reasons behind their success in the rankings. There was a lot of interest and the questions asked were insightful and often challenging demonstrating that rankings are now much better understood and the demands from the audience are higher.

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Europe in QS World University Rankings 2014/15

While US and British institutions dominate the upper layers of the QS World University Rankings, the very different higher education systems of continental Europe emerge here as significant and well-rounded competitors.

As in 2013, the top continental institutions are the German and French-speaking arms of the Swiss federal university system, ETH Zurich and EPFL respectively. ETH is in 12th place, unchanged from last year, and EPFL is up two places to 17. Both of these universities are exceptionally attractive to international faculty and students, and have a virtually perfect score on these measures. They are the top-ranked universities outside the US and the UK, ahead of entrants from Canada and Singapore.

As well as ETH and EPFL, five other Swiss universities appear in the top 200. These are funded by individual cantons, unlike ETH and EPFL which have national federal funding.

The next continental institution in these rankings is the Ecole Polytechnique Paris Tech. It is in 35th place, up from 41 last year, despite a modest performance (128 in the world) in our global academic review. Just behind it come the University of Copenhagen at 45, Germany’s top entrant, Heidelberg, at 49, and Amsterdam at 50. Munich’s two universities are at 52 and 54.

In terms of its size, the Netherlands is probably the most impressive performer here with 11 top-200 institutions, followed by Belgium with six. This prolific Dutch showing has been a constant during the ten-year life of these Rankings. In addition, most European nations have at least one top-100 university.

One key question which these results might answer is whether the European nations most affected by the 2008 world financial crisis have been able to retain a viable university system, one of the cornerstones of long-term economic recovery. It seems that to some extent, they have. Ireland’s top university, Trinity College Dublin, is 71st here, and is joined in the top 200 by University College Dublin at 139. Spain has three top-200 universities. Italy manages just one, Bologna, often regarded as Europe’s oldest. However, the top-ranked Greek and Portuguese universities are modestly ranked, in 447th and 293rd place respectively.

Despite these issues, the overall message is that it is possible to have a viable university system without massive student debt, provided governments regard this expenditure as valid. Many of these universities are good at attracting international students, showing that their teaching is internationally competitive. In addition, their strong standing in our academic survey shows that this approach can produce institutions that generate world-class research.

● The 2014/15 QS World University Rankings are at

Asia in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15

The QS World University Rankings for 2014/15 suggest that although Asia has many excellent universities, its top institutions still cannot vie with the big hitters of Europe and North America.

The top 200 ranked institutions include 33 in Asia. As the only nation in the region with a truly developed economy, it is no surprise that Japan is home to ten of them. And its top institution, the University of Tokyo, is one place up this year in 31st spot.

But perhaps the leaders of Japanese higher education will be less pleased than alarmed by these results. They are bound to notice that Tokyo shares its position with Seoul National, up here by four places. If SNU outranks Tokyo some time soon, the symbolism will not be missed in Korea or Japan. SNU now has a good lead over Tokyo in international faculty and students, but does less well on our other measures.

Another change in this year’s Ranking that will be noted along the corridors of power is that Tsinghua University has emerged as China’s top institution. It is in 47th position, ten places ahead of Peking, which is down by 11 since 2013. Tsinghua is marginally better-liked than Peking in our global employer survey. And in a continent whose universities tend not to bring in many international students, it has slightly more of them than Peking. However, it remains true that even Tsinghua is only ninth among the Asian universities we rank, and that there is little evidence of overall improvement in the standing of Chinese institutions.

One thing that does not change in our rankings is the modest standing of Indian universities. The best-placed is the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, up 11 places this year to 222 or, to put it another way, behind seven Chinese institutions, 11 in Japan, and a plethora of others in Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and other countries. Indian universities are well-liked by academics and employers, but their record in publishing cited papers, their miserable faculty/student ratios and their low appeal to international staff and students all hold them back in our Rankings.

It also remains true this year that the top Asian universities are in Singapore and Hong Kong. Their location allows them to maintain deep links to the West as well as routine use of the English language. The National University of Singapore is up two places to 22, and the University of Hong Kong down two to 28. Hong Kong has five universities in the top 200 and Singapore two, meaning that more or less the entire higher education system of both countries is of world standing.

● The QS World University Rankings for 2014/15 are at We expect to publish the next edition of the Asian University Rankings in spring 2015.

This year’s publication of the QS World University Rankings – the tenth anniversary edition – created worldwide interest.

The rankings trended on Facebook and Twitter, while nearly 2,000 media outlets around the world reported the results. There were 750,000 page views on the website in three days.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, received a personal copy of the rankings. He was the latest national leader to receive a briefing on QS rankings. Both the Prime Minister and President of India, Narendra Modi and Pranab Mukherjee, have done so in recent months.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) topped the ranking for the third year in a row, but UK universities presented the nearest challenge. Cambridge and Imperial College London tied for second place, with Harvard fourth.

Ashwin Fernandes of QS Asia handing a first-day copy of the 2014/15 Rankings to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates

The QS World University Rankings  are global news in their own right, appearing in media across the world on and just after publication day. But they do have some especially distinguished readers.

Here we see Ashwin Fernandes of QS Asia handing a first-day copy of the 2014/15 Rankings to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.  Also present at the meeting was the deputy prime minister, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and Dr Ali Al Noami , vice chancellor of the UAE University. The university is up 42 plaaces to 385 in the new Rankings. Ashwin also handed over a plaque detailing the Rankings results of all UAE universities.

With Oxford and University College London tying for fifth place, it was a vintage year for UK universities. Seven finished in the top 30, the most since the QS rankings were first published in 2004.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, tweeted his congratulations, while Greg Clark, the new Business Innovation and Skills Secretary said the ranking demonstrated that the UK was punching above its weight on research.

A total of 31 countries were represented in the top 200; where the US is the dominant nation, with 51 institutions, ahead of the UK (29), Germany (13), the Netherlands (11), Canada (10), Japan (10) and Australia (eight).


The leading places in the ranking underlined the success of technological universities in recent years. Three appeared in the first eight positions, including top-placed MIT.

Ben Sowter, the QS head of research, said: “In the wake of the recession, both governments and private sector funding source are placing greater emphasis on high-impact STEM research, much of which takes place in specialist institutions. Tech-focused institutions are increasingly the focal point of a global race for innovation. With budgets from public sources increasingly coming under strain, institutions seem more focused than ever on potentially lucrative research in science, technology and medicine.”

The top ten fastest risers since 2009 are: MIT, Sungkyunkwan University (Korea), EPFL (Switzerland), Stanford, LMU München, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Korea University, Zhejiang University (China), Queen Mary, University of London and ETH Zurich. Eight of these institutions feature key strengths in science and technology.

In the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published in August, MIT moved up to third in a year of more changes than usual in the top 20. Harvard was top for the twelfth time in a row, however, with Stanford second.


University College London to host IREG-7 conference

By Martin Ince

The IREG-7 conference in London, organised by QS and its partner organisations, is now only a few weeks away. It will be held at University College London, the fourth-ranked institution in the World University Rankings.

The theme for this conference is Employability and Academic Rankings, although there will be sessions on a full range of rankings topics.

To help us think about the link between university rankings and graduate employability in the global market, we have a distinguished panel of speakers from employers including Airbus, Siemens and others. Contributors from universities, and external observers from bodies such as the World Bank, will look at employability and skills as a new measure of higher education performance. This issue has emerged in recent year as a major concern for universities around the world.

There are also to be strong sessions on current and future rankings systems, globally and increasingly regionally, for example in the Middle East and the BRICS nations. An especially strong set of presentations will look at developments in Russia and Eastern Europe. In addition, the QS Asian University Rankings for 2014 will be released on May 13, immediately before the opening of the conference.

We very much hope to see you at IREG-7. The full programme is here and you can register here.




Reimagining Education: Wharton and QS join forces to identify innovation in higher education teaching

By Martin Ince

What does the world’s most innovative higher education teaching look like in 2013? And how can it be brought to a wider student audience?

QS is aiming to answer this question, in collaboration with the Wharton School of Pennsylvania University, one of the world’s best-reputed business schools.

The two organisations are launching a unique competition, Reimagine Education, to find new approaches to teaching that meet the needs of today’s hyper-connected and demanding students.

Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Centre for Advanced Studies in Management at Wharton, is a member of the Academic Advisory Board for the QS World University Rankings, and Reimagining Education was his idea. He says that despite innovations such as MOOCs or the Khan Academy’s bite-sized learning modules, even the most prestigious of universities tend to rely on top-down and traditional approaches to teaching, with too little regard for the learning that might result.

He adds that new approaches to learning are also needed because of the growing diversity of the student body. They can be of almost any age, and their motivations for study might be anywhere on the spectrum from professional advancement to the pure love of knowledge.

Reimagining Education is intended to recognise educators who have thought of new approaches to pedagogy in higher education. We are looking for novel teaching with demonstrable results in terms of improved learning.

The distinguished judging panel for Reimagine Education will award prizes for distance, presence and mixed forms of learning. One of these three will also be the overall winner. There may also be awards, if entries of sufficient merit come in, for the best innovative pedagogy in each of the five faculty areas of the QS rankings: the natural sciences, the social sciences including business, biomedicine, technology and engineering, and the arts and humanities. There may be further prizes too, maybe on a regional basis.

The first Reimagine Education prizes will be awarded at a major conference on innovative pedagogies which we are holding at the Wharton School on December 8-10. Professor Wind intends it to be the first activity of many for spreading new practice in higher education learning.

Full details of the competition, the judges, the judging criteria and the thinking that lies behind the idea are at Entries have to be submitted by the end of August. Please do think of entering, and encourage others to do so.




Indian government takes a closer look at university rankings


By John O’Leary

The Indian government is taking increased interest in QS rankings as the company begins to develop a ratings system for the country’s universities.

Ben Sowter, head of the QS Intelligence Unit, which is responsible for the company’s rankings, met Omita Paul, Secretary to the Indian President, with representatives of the Indian Centre for Assessment and Accreditiation (ICAA) in Delhi last month. The hour-long meeting at Rashtrapati Bhavan was the first for any rankings agency. Read more

50 under 50

QS Top 50 Under 50: Out 30th January

The first global university rankings of 2014 will be published next week, when QS unveils the second edition of its top 50 universities under 50 years old.

There is certain to be considerable movement in the upper reaches of the table because three of last year’s top 20 – Warwick, Lancaster and Macquarie – were already 49 years old and will no longer be eligible for the ranking. The universities concerned and others that will drop out of the ranking over the next few years were established in the 1960s, as governments -particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom – set about expanding access to higher education.

The QS Top 50 Under 50 was created to draw attention to the achievements of institutions that consider themselves at a disadvantage when competing with longer-established universities in the normal rankings. The well-entrenched reputations and extensive facilities enjoyed by universities dating back a century or more help them to dominate the QS World University Rankings and others like them. Only three universities under 50 years old appeared in the QS top 100 in 2013.

Younger universities have welcomed an additional opportunity to demonstrate their quality. Some were established only in the 1990s.

The Top 50 Under 50 will kick off a busy rankings season, with the QS World University Rankings by Subject following next month. There may be a further increase on the 30 subjects ranked last year, which ranged from the humanities to the sciences and included vocational subjects such as education.

Harvard dominated the 2013subject rankings, although the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proved its strength in engineering and technological subjects. The addition of agriculture brought in a variety of new institutions, including the University of California, at Davis, which topped the ranking, as well as featuring among the top ten universitiesunder 50 years old.

Polling has already begun among academics and employers for the tenth anniversary edition of the QS World University Rankings, which will be published in the autumn.Last year’s record totals of 62,000 academics and 28,000 employers responding to the two surveys may well be exceeded this year.

Before then, regional rankings will be published for Asia and Latin America, and the inaugural BRICS ranking will be updated.