Inclusiveness vs. Stability

Inclusiveness vs. Stability: Can we achieve both?

In 2013 we have added 106 new universities to the QS World University Rankings®. Indeed since we have also extended the number of monitored universities which do not qualify for an overall ranking (i.e. specialist subject and graduate schools), the total number added to the study is over 130. This is nothing new, indeed as our resources have increased, our survey responses have grown and institutions have been more forthcoming in contacting us to engage with our evaluations and provide data it has been an ongoing and deliberate policy to increase the number of institutions featured.

The table below shows the number of institutions featured in the QS World University Rankings® for each of its ten editions and percentage increase each year. With the exception of 2010 there has always been an increase. In 2013 the increase is proportionally less than the increase made in 2011.

Institutions included in the QS World University Rankings®
YearInstitutions% increase

Whether or not universities qualify for inclusion is often not clear until the late stages of the analysis and thus it is difficult to give substantial advance warning of the increase in the size of our exercise. Naturally, however, given that performance in the ranking is relative, the addition of substantial numbers of universities has an inevitable effect on the apparent performance of universities already included. What we have tried to do, is notify those universities most affected by this at the time their fact file has been delivered – two weeks prior to publication.

Clearly it is important, if possible and reasonable, to provide insight to stakeholders on a larger proportion of the world’s 20,000+ universities and as our data strengthens, the system overall seems sufficiently robust and resilient to facilitate this. Indeed despite the addition of these universities, the average change in position year on year among the top 600 has improved between 2012 and 2013 from 21.2 places in 2012 to 19.4 places in 2013. Indeed this trend can be seen all the way down the table with the average change in position among the top 100 now standing at just 4.4 places.

Clearly it is important, if possible and reasonable, to provide insight to stakeholders on a larger proportion of the world’s 20,000+ universities and as our data strengthens, the system overall seems sufficiently robust and resilient to facilitate this.

However, the fortunes of a minority of universities – particularly those that are particularly weak in any given indicator (thus increasing the likelihood of displacement when new institutions are included) have been affected more severely, and not necessarily through an objective decline in their own performance. So what is the surest course forward, do we continue to press on towards 1,000 universities over the next couple of years so that more universities and more countries can be richly featured herein at moderate cost to overall stability? Or do we prioritize further stability for the institutions already featured at the cost of greater inclusiveness?

What do you think?

Zoya Zaitseva and Nunzio Quacquarelli

QS collaborates with RIA Novosti

RIA Novosti


QS proud to announce a new collaboration with RIA Novosti, the leading news agency of the Russian-speaking world, as a partner whose mission is closely aligned with our own – providing academics, companies, students and young professionals with the most accurate and up-to-date information about international education and career opportunities.

Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS says: “Russia is certainly a dynamic country in terms of higher education development at the moment. The country has had many great achievements in the academic field that are not commonly known in the global arena, however, it appears this will be changing very soon. With the government investing heavily in the different activities of Russian universities, we expect to see an increasing number ranked in the QS World University Rankings, and we hope this partnership galvanizes the efforts of Russian universities even further.  We have already seen improved communication between our research and events teams and university officials, which greatly helps in our data collection processes as well as our efforts to present institutions from the region at a global level.”

RIA Novosti will provide a comprehensive overview of global university ranking trends, sharing results of the annual QS World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings by Subject and other research output. This greatly contributes towards the dialog between the Russian and international academic and student audiences. QS’s main priority now is to continue to provide practical recommendations on understanding and using different ranking systems. We are confident that this collaboration will bring Russian institutions the recognition they deserve on the international stage.

QS and Interfax Group to launch first BRICS university ranking



QS has been appointed by Interfax Group, a leading information provider in Russia and emerging “Eurasian” nations, to produce the world’s first university ranking of the “BRICS” countries.

The “QS University Rankings: BRICS”, as the ranking will be named, has received support from ministries of education and higher education institutions around the world. As one of the most trusted independent university ranking organisations, experienced in both global and regional rankings, QS was Interfax Group’s natural choice of partner for the project.

The new ranking was fostered by Russia’s ministry of education; following Russian president Vladimir Putin’s announcement (May 2012) to have at least five of the country’s universities in the top 100 in global university rankings by 2020.

Interfax Group was chosen out of five bidders to launch two new pilot rankings. The first will include only universities from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS),the second ranking is a “BRICS” nation ranking, which will include the universities of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; this will be a joint project between QS and Interfax Group.

Zoya Zaitseva, project director for QS University Rankings: BRICS says: “The BRICS nations are investing heavily in higher education, research and development as they recognize that creating knowledge and nurturing talents is essential to fuel the growth of their rapidly-expanding economies. The new ranking will increase their visibility and allow these universities to become more recognized on a global level.”

Dr. Mrs. Indu Shahani, Member  of the University Grants Commission, India and visiting faculty member at the UC Berkeley and NYU Stern says: “I’m delighted to be associated with the pilot of the QS University Rankings: BRICS. There is a strong belief among academics that this will create a new benchmark for young students as well as help raise the profile and global visibility of good Indian universities.”

She adds: “BRICS nations are accustomed to research studies on economic and political areas but this kind of educational research initiative based is a first and should be well received by Indian universities.”

Results of the first QS University Rankings: BRICS will be announced at the Interfax and QS BRICS University Forum in Moscow on 17th December 2013 and published on on the same day.


QS World University Rankings 2013/14: Emerging Nations

What do the QS World University Rankings 2013/14 suggest has been the biggest change to global higher education since the crash of 2008?

First, one thing has not changed: growth continues despite the international economic damage seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. In 2009 there were just over 3.7 million students studying outside their home country, according to the OECD publication Education at a Glance. In 2011, the latest year for which we have the numbers, the total was 4.3 million. 53 per cent were from Asia, mainly India, China and Korea.

Something else that has changed little in the recession years is been the pecking order of the top destinations. Of our top 20 universities in 2008, 15 are in the top 21 for 2013. Perhaps the most notable change is not MIT’s move from ninth to top place, but the appearance of ETH and EPFL from Switzerland in the top 20.

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QS World University Rankings 2013/14

Results are out: QS World University Rankings 2013/14

The tenth edition of the QS World University Rankings confirms the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the global leader in higher education. But perhaps more importantly, the data published this week demonstrate the global appetite for the exercise and its maturity.

More academics and employers than ever have participated in the polling that is at the heart of the new rankings. And the results are the most stable since the first rankings were published in 2005.

Both characteristics take on extra importance because students are continuing to gravitate towards the universities at the top of the rankings. This year’s top 100 have almost 9 per cent more international students than last year. Even in an era of continuing rapid growth in higher education around the world, increases on such a scale suggest that students are placing a premium on quality and universities are happy to respond.

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QS University Rankings:Asia 2013

The QS University Rankings: Asia 2013

The fifth edition of the QS University Rankings: Asia appeared last week.

It shows that for the third year in a row, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is the region’s top institution. But there are also some surprises in the rankings, both among the top dogs and a little lower down.

A casual look at these rankings confirms the advantages that the English language, and historic links to the English-speaking world more generally, bring to some Asian universities. The top three institutions are in Hong Kong and Singapore, repeating last year’s findings. These three, HKUST, the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong, are all well-liked in our academic and employer surveys, the backbone of the ranking.
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Regional Rankings

Coming Soon: QS’s Annual University Rankings by Region

The second important innovation in world rankings of universities in recent years has been the introduction of regional comparisons. QS published the first Asian ranking in 2009 and followed it in 2011 with the inaugural Latin American ranking.

Both supplemented the measures used in the QS World University Rankings with new criteria designed to reflect the priorities of the region. The results focused attention on universities of regional or national importance that do not feature prominently in the world rankings.

This year’s Latin American rankings will be published later this month, with the Asian equivalent following in June. As in 2012, a world ranking of universities that are less than 50 years old will accompany the Asian exercise, underlining the growing status of the continent’s youngest institutions.

QS is the only organisation to publish bespoke regional rankings. A recent listing of Asian universities by Times Higher Education merely extracted the scores achieved by Asian institutions from the magazine’s 2012 world ranking.

The QS Latin American ranking will rate the region’s top 250 universities on seven key indicators, including the proportion of academic staff holding a PhD and the web impact achieved by each university. The longer-established Asian ranking will have two more measures and will include the numbers of research papers published and the volume of student exchanges at each university.

The use of different indicators to the world rankings and the exclusion of survey data from outside the region results in a different order to the global exercise. In Asia, for example, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology topped the 2012 regional ranking even though Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo universities were more highly rated globally.

Students and universities themselves will be waiting to see whether the huge investment in research by China is beginning to pay off in statistical terms and whether India will make a long-awaited breakthrough. In Latin America, the focus will be on whether Brazil can realise its international ambitions, beginning with whether the University of São Paulo can hold onto its slim lead over Chile’s Pontificia Universidad Católica.





2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject- The Headlines

Perhaps the most important development of recent years in international comparisons of universities has been the publication of subject rankings by QS.

The new edition published today is the most extensive yet, covering 30 different subjects. The rankings provide the only means available to prospective students of placing universities in order for their particular area of interest, rather than as whole institutions or broad faculty combinations.

A recent report on the impact of rankings by the European Universities Association said: “Comparisons between universities on a subject basis can be much more useful for them than global university league tables that try to encapsulate entire institutions in a single score.”

More than 2,500 universities were evaluated for the latest rankings, which for the first time include academics’ H Index in the calculations. A total of 678 universities feature in the top 200 for at least one subject.

The scoring system varies between subjects to allow for the different roles played by citations and the availability of other indicators. However, the main components are reputational surveys among academics and employers, and the research record of the university in the subject being ranked.

The leading institutions in the QS World University Rankings naturally dominate in many subjects – Harvard tops 10 of the 30 rankings – but the exercise also shines a light on centres of excellence in universities that do not reach the same heights in all disciplines. It also allows specialist institutions, such as Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in medicine, to demonstrate their quality.

After Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)is the most successful university, finishing top in seven subjects. The University of California, Berkeley, and Oxford each topped the ranking in four subjects, Cambridge managed three and Imperial College London and the University of California Davis one.

Cambridge reached the top 10 in 27 of the 30 tables, the largest haul by any university. Oxford and UC Berkeley were next with 32, followed by Stanford with 22.

One more subject area has been added this year – agriculture and forestry, the discipline in which Davis (ranked 100 overall in the institutional table) triumphs. The specialist Wageningen University, from the Netherlands, is second for agriculture and Brazil’s Unicamp, the State University of Campinas, makes the top 20.

Ben Sowter, who is responsible for the rankings as head of the QS Information Unit, said: “Everyone talks about rankings, but QS started all this to help international students make smarter choices, and students tend to pick their subject before their university. Improving and extending these rankings by subject is central to our mission – expect to see more subjects and more universities evaluated in years to come.”

The full rankings for all 30 subjects are available at

Image source: Francisco Diez

Spotlight On Taiwan’s Universities: Low Fees, Booming Enrolments

A Reader’s Digest poll last month found that Taiwan offers some of the best value-for-money degrees in Asia. But political and demographic change may mean that the island’s higher education system will need a new economic model in years to come.

In a recent interview with Higher EducationWorld, Han-Sun (Vincent) Chiang, president of Fu Jen University in Taipei, pointed out that the university has 27,000 students on a campus built for 10,000. The reason in part is that university tuition fees are low, just a few thousand US dollars per year. In addition, there is little mainstream government funding for teaching or research. And because higher education is politically important, with 90 per cent of high school graduates going on to university, fees are held down by central government.

Chiang, a genial medic whose big project is the construction of a 1,000-bed university hospital, says that it is impossible to grow Fu Jen’s student numbers any more. Indeed, it is getting harder to find students as the number of school-leavers falls. Instead, he wants to admit about 5,000 students a year instead of the current 7,000. This would take stress off the university and allow it to enhance student quality.

To make up the financial gap, Chiang plans on plunging more deeply into the international student market. This chiefly means mainland China, although here too there is a political problem. Fearful of “cross-straits” influences, the government limits the number of mainland students allowed on the island.

Another approach is to up the number of postgraduates at Fu Jen. Chiang is especially keen on MBAs, as they pay well and can become generous alumni. But here too there is a political problem. Taiwanese law gives a much better tax break for donations to state universities – led by National Taiwan University, 80 in the QS World University Rankings – than to private institutions such as Fu Jen. The representative body for the private universities is lobbying on this anomaly.

But Chiang says that Fu Jen will not be joining in the possible mergers mooted between some more modest Taiwanese universities. Instead, he prefers to use the institution’s Catholic connections to build links to smaller Catholic universities in the island and to the many large Catholic universities around the world.

● A longer version of this interview will appear in the QS Showcase magazine later this year.

WUR_by Subject logo

2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject: What’s Coming Up?

QS is about to publish the World University Rankings by Subject for the third time. They will be more comprehensive and detailed than ever.

The 2013 subject rankings will include a new subject, agriculture and forestry. Growing populations and changing dietary demands mean that this ancient human concern has never been more topical. We are sure you will want to know the top universities around the world for research and teaching in this area.

The addition of agriculture will bring the total number of subjects we cover to 30. Between them they cover the vast bulk of academic activity, whether in terms of teaching and student numbers, or of research.

Over the past year we have also looked at a range of other possible subjects for inclusion. However, agriculture is the only one for which we felt we had the data needed to provide a reliable outcome.

In addition to a new subject, we are amending the subject rankings by adding a new indicator.

In their first two years, we drew up the rankings on the basis of three measures: citations data, academic opinion and employer opinion. The weightings of the three were subject to “variable geometry.” In some subjects, for example, citations are more important than in others, and in these they would account for a higher share of a university’s possible score.

We are now adding a new measure to these three in the shape of the H-index. Readers of Higher Education World probably know all about this indicator, invented in 2005 by the physicist Jorge Hirsch, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. But if not, here is an article on the matter by Alex Bateman of the Wellcome Trust.

The H-index for an individual, or in our case for a department, combines the number of papers they have generated and the number of times the papers have been cited. So it rewards both quality and quantity. By contrast, our other citation measure is prone to being skewed by a small number of highly-cited papers. Our analysis shows that it correlates well with academic and employer opinion of university achievement in specific subjects.