University Rankings - What do we need to know?

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What are the University rankings?

Universities often need to prove they are the best match for you - the student, faculty member, donor, etc. The easiest way to compare and take a decision is through the university rankings. Taking easily measurable criteria, the rankings create easy to read and understand tables. Rankings are being prepared by different institutions, magazines, websites and governments. Global rankings are the most popular and are considered the most important, but many local or regional rankings exist.

What is being measured?

Each ranking is using different criteria when preparing their evaluation.  The most popular include: admissions, historical reputation, funding, student options, research excellence, internationalization, links to the industry, awards received by the university, students or academical staff. Data is mostly drafted from the major scientific databases, surveys among students, faculty members and alumni and annual reports published by the universities.

Who are the authors of the rankings?

Rankings are constantly gaining popularity. Currently there are many entities producing rankings, but historically the three most important are:

- Times Higher Education, which are the only rankings, that assess universities against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

- The Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking Consultancy), which is the oldest of its kind.

- QS World University Rankings, which also publish rankings by subject.

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Why are university rankings important?

As the popularity of the university ratings grows, more and more people start turning to them as a source of information, when taking certain decisions. Students and their parents aim to enter a university with as higher position in the ranking as possible. Donors tend to allocate more funding to the top universities. Governments use the rankings in order to evaluate the success of the academic institutions and base their support on that. Companies often look for partners or hire graduates based on the university rankings.


Many criticize the rankings for the limited amount of criteria they use. This usually doesn't give the global picture, when one is looking at a specific university. This criteria is also leading to gradual loss of the uniqueness of the universities, who only aim to fulfill the criteria of the rankings and forget about their individual and historical context. Critics also believe, that universities tend to turn their attention more to the research that contributes to their positioning in the rankings instead of emphasizing on teaching.

So what?

University rankings are already an established institution and will most probably continue being such. As the access to information is becoming easier than ever, the rankings will probably also improve in terms of relevance and will become one of the sources of motivation for the universities to achieve excellence.

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Friday, 22 January 2021

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