QS World University Rankings: What Is It and Does it Really Matter?

Explore the QS World University Rankings and understand their significance in higher education. Learn about the methodology, key indicators, and whether these rankings really matter for students and universities in 2024.

QS World University Rankings: What Is It and Does it Really Matter?

Amethyst Rayne

QS World University Rankings: What Is It and Does it Really Matter?

QS World University Rankings: What Is It and Does it Really Matter?

Photo by Joshua Golde on Unsplash

The QS World University Rankings have become a pivotal benchmark in higher education, providing a crucial reference point for students, faculty, and institutions globally. As we navigate the complex landscape of universities and academic programs, understanding the QS rankings and their relevance is vital. This blog delves into what the QS World University Rankings entail and evaluates their significance in today's academic environment.

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What are the QS World University Rankings?

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) introduced the QS World University Rankings in 2004 to assess the performance of universities worldwide. QS, a British company specializing in higher education and career information, created this ranking system to provide a comprehensive evaluation of universities. The QS World University Rankings have since evolved into one of the most respected and widely referenced university ranking systems globally.

Methodology of QS World University Rankings

The QS World University Rankings methodology is based on several key indicators designed to provide a holistic assessment of university performance. These indicators include:

  • Academic Reputation: This indicator, which accounts for 40% of the overall score, is derived from a global survey of academic experts who evaluate the reputation of institutions.
  • Employer Reputation: Contributing 10% to the overall score, this indicator is based on surveys where employers identify institutions they perceive to be producing the best graduates.
  • Faculty/Student Ratio: This indicator, worth 20%, measures the teaching quality by comparing the number of academic staff to students.
  • Citations per Faculty: Accounting for 20% of the score, this measures research impact by the number of citations per faculty member, with data sourced from Scopus.
  • International Faculty Ratio and International Student Ratio: Each of these indicators contributes 5% to the overall score, reflecting the global diversity of the university’s faculty and student body.

Data for these indicators is meticulously collected and analyzed, ensuring that the rankings provide a reliable measure of university performance.

Why QS World University Rankings Matter

The QS World University Rankings significantly impact universities and their stakeholders. For universities, a high ranking can enhance reputation, attract top faculty and students, and increase funding opportunities. For students, these rankings provide valuable information to help identify the right university, considering factors like academic reputation and employability.

  1. Impact on Universities
  2. Guidance for Students
    • For students, the QS rankings are an essential tool in selecting the right university. By considering indicators such as academic reputation and employability, students can make informed decisions about their education and future careers.
    • The rankings also help students identify institutions that offer strong programs in their chosen subject areas, ensuring they receive a quality education.
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Evaluating the QS World University Rankings

While the QS rankings offer a comprehensive evaluation, they are not without criticisms. Strengths include a broad range of indicators and global recognition. However, some argue that the emphasis on research output and reputation surveys may introduce biases. Comparing QS with other systems like Times Higher Education and Shanghai Rankings highlights these differences and underscores the need for a balanced approach to university assessment.

Strengths of the QS Ranking System

  • Comprehensive Indicators: The QS rankings use a variety of indicators to measure different aspects of university performance, from academic reputation to research output and international diversity.
  • Global Reach and Recognition: The QS World University Rankings are widely recognized and respected, making them a valuable tool for universities and students around the world.

Criticisms and Limitations

  • Overemphasis on Research Output: Some critics argue that the QS rankings place too much emphasis on research output, potentially overshadowing other important aspects of university performance, such as teaching quality and student satisfaction.
  • Potential Biases in Reputation Surveys: The reliance on surveys for indicators like academic and employer reputation can introduce biases, as perceptions may be influenced by factors other than the actual quality of the institutions.

The Impact of QS Rankings on Universities

Universities worldwide strive to improve their QS rankings, recognizing the benefits it brings. For instance, the University of Melbourne and the University of Tokyo have leveraged their high rankings to attract international students and faculty. Top-ranked institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Oxford serve as benchmarks for excellence.

Subject-Specific and Regional Rankings

QS also offers World University Rankings by Subject, which provides a more granular view of university performance in specific academic areas. These subject rankings are crucial for students seeking specialized programs. Additionally, regional rankings, such as those for the Arab Region and Latin America, highlight leading institutions in different parts of the world.

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Subject-Specific Rankings

The QS World University Rankings by Subject offer detailed insights into university performance across various academic disciplines. This allows students to identify institutions that excel in their chosen fields, ensuring they receive a high-quality education tailored to their academic interests.

Regional Rankings

The QS regional rankings, such as those for the Arab Region, Latin America, and Emerging Europe and Central Asia, provide valuable information about the top universities in different parts of the world. These rankings help students find institutions that offer excellent education and research opportunities in their respective regions.

QS Stars Rating System

Apart from the QS World University Rankings, the QS Stars rating system offers a different perspective, evaluating universities across broader criteria, including teaching quality, employability, and facilities. This rating system helps institutions showcase their strengths beyond traditional rankings.

How QS Stars Differ from QS World University Rankings

  • Broader Criteria: The QS Stars rating system evaluates universities on a wider range of criteria, including factors such as teaching quality, employability, and facilities.
  • Institutional Strengths: QS Stars allows universities to highlight their strengths in areas that may not be fully captured by traditional rankings, providing a more holistic view of their performance.


In conclusion, the QS World University Rankings play a pivotal role in shaping the higher education landscape. They provide valuable insights for students, faculty, and institutions, despite some criticisms. Prospective students should use these rankings as one of many tools in their decision-making process, considering other factors like personal goals and program specifics.

The QS World University Rankings, with their comprehensive methodology and global recognition, offer a valuable resource for understanding university performance. However, it is essential to consider the limitations and use the rankings as a guide rather than an absolute measure of quality. By doing so, students and institutions can make informed decisions that align with their goals and aspirations.

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