How Times Higher Education Can Help You Find Your Dream University Abroad

College ranking sites like US News, Forbes, and Niche make considerably narrowing down your options of degree-granting institutions in the country (almost 4,000 of them are around!) a lot easier.

Are you looking to enroll in an academic program abroad?

Many soon-to-be international students turn to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.

It had a partnership with the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings until 2009 — THE allied with Thomson Reuters and Elsevier and utilized a brand-new ranking methodology.

Over 1,906 universities across 108 countries and regions are a part of its most recent list.

As of this writing, the University of Oxford is #1 — for eight years straight!

Stanford University has the #2 spot, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is at #3, climbing two places from the year before. Rounding up the top five are Harvard University and the University of Cambridge.

Different Global and Subject Rankings

THE is primarily known for World University Rankings.

American students rejoice!

That’s because the United States is the most-represented country overall — on the most recent list, there are almost 170 research institutions in the country included.

There are 56 of them in the top 200 alone.

What’s so great about Times Higher Ed rankings is that the Scores tab on its website lets you quickly see the scores of entries across various criteria upon which THE relies.

As such, you can easily verify which university is a standout in the category you find the most important.

Besides World University Rankings, THE also publishes World Reputation Rankings. It’s according to the opinions of scholars on which not more than 15 universities they believe are best for research.

THE also publishes rankings according to country or region, such as:

  • Arab Rankings
  • China Subject Ratings
  • Japan University Rankings
  • Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings

College-bound high schoolers who wish to study outside the US to have access to the best program on the planet may also check out THE’s World University Rankings by Subject.

Here are the different subjects by which THE ranks international universities:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Business and Economics
  • Clinical and Health
  • Computer Science
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Law
  • Life Sciences
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Social Sciences

THE takes pride in the fact that its Impact Rankings is the only one of its kind — it assesses universities against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations.

Making it even more unique is that you can explore the ranking based on various SDGs like:

  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Climate Action
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Gender Equality
  • Life Below Water
  • No Poverty
  • Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  • Quality Education
  • Zero Hunger

I got curious about what THE Impact Rankings based on Sustainable Cities and Communities would look like.

Here’s what I saw (top 15 only):

#1Simon Fraser UniversityCanada93.4
#2University of GlasgowUnited Kingdom93.1
#3University of ManchesterUnited Kingdom97.5
#4University of VictoriaCanada91.8
#5Western Sydney UniversityAustralia91.6
#6University of NewcastleAustralia91.3
#7Monash UniversityAustralia91.0
#7Queen’s UniversityCanada91.0
#9UNSW SydneyAustralia90.6
#10University of SurreyUnited Kingdom90.0
#11Penn StateUnited States89.9
#12York UniversityCanada89.6
#13University of TasmaniaAustralia89.4
#14Michigan State UniversityUnited States89.0
#15University of OtagoNew Zealand88.4

DIY college rankings

Methodology for World University Rankings

THE’s methodology isn’t the same across various editions — it changes as necessary.

Lately, its ranking strategy underwent a substantial update to provide a better representation of the outputs of a diverse range of research universities worldwide.

Before the major methodology revision, THE used 13 criteria, which it refers to as performance indicators.

Now, it calibrated those and came up with 18 performance indicators.

According to THE, adding further college ranking measures is essential for the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons that academics, administrators, and students can trust.

The 18 performance indicators fall under five major areas:

Research Quality: 30%

The best research universities are important role players in spreading innovations.

What THE examines is the number of times scholars all over the globe cite an institution’s published research work — it does so through its bibliometric data supplier, Elsevier.

Elsevier looked at 134+ million citations to 16.5 million various publications, including journal articles, conference proceedings, books, and book chapters, published throughout a span of five years.

The following are the five performance indicators under Research Quality:

  • Citation impact: 15%
  • Research strength: 5%
  • Research excellence: 5%
  • Research influence: 5%

Teaching: 29.5%

An environment conducive to learning is of utmost importance.

THE is on the lookout for research institutions demonstrating the most commitment to fostering and encouraging the next generation of professors, scholars, and researchers.

It does so by observing the proportion of undergraduate research conducted — the more research undergraduate students do, the higher the level the provision of instruction.

Here are the five performance indicators under the Teaching category:

  • Teaching reputation: 15%
  • Staff-to-student ratio: 4.5%
  • Doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio: 2%
  • Doctorates-awarded-to-academic-staff ratio: 5.5%
  • Institutional income: 2.5%

Research Environment: 29%

THE conducts the so-called Academic Reputation Survey every year.

University peers serve as the respondents, and the results serve as measurements of areas pivotal to the establishment of an atmosphere that encourages valuable research work, including research income.

With consideration of academic staff numbers and adjusted for purchasing-power parity (PPP), which national policy and economic circumstances can influence, THE admits that research income is a controversial metric.

The three performance indicators under Research Environment are as follows:

  • Research reputation: 18%
  • Research income: 5.5%
  • Research productivity: 5.5%

International Outlook: 7.5%

Can the university attract undergraduates, postgraduates, and faculty from all over the planet?

That’s the question THE asks in determining whether or not an institution can succeed on the world stage — it arrives at the answer by checking high-volume publications with at least one international co-author.

To avoid disadvantaging universities depending on the size of the countries they’re in, THE adjusted its traditional benchmark by adding population into the equation.

These are the three performance indicators under the International Outlook category:

  • Proportion of international students: 2.5%
  • Proportion of international staff: 2.5%
  • International collaboration: 2.5%

Industry: 4.0%

Among all categories in the THE World University Rankings, Industry has the least weight.

For this, THE turns to Elsevier for data on patents published within four years, obtained from sources such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and the European Patent Office.

The point of including this is to help THE determine a research university’s capability to assist various industries with innovations, inventions, and consultancy, which is vital to today’s global economy.

Only two performance indicators are under Industry:

  • Industry income: 2%
  • Patents: 2%

Criticisms, Shortcomings, and Limitations

Is Times Higher Education reliable?

Well, it isn’t clear who the target audience is of THE World University Rankings.

While the name makes it evident that the list is for students looking to complete an academic program outside of their respective countries, which type of students it appeals to is vague in the eyes of many.

Undergraduate students are unlikely the intended crowd.

Not too many fresh high school graduates are too concerned with how much work a university has published and how many of them have been cited by international scholars — THE’s methodology is research-centric.

There are 18 performance indicators considered in ranking colleges.

Without the cost of attendance being any of those, it’s definite that the Times Higher Education World Rankings is for degree-seeking students with sky’s-the-limit budgets.

Similarly, THE’s methodology may disadvantage some global higher education institutions with outstanding academics and groundbreaking research simply because their programs and publications are in their non-English native tongues.

But just because an English-speaking school is good doesn’t necessarily mean THE will rank it.

Whether or not other college ranking sites regard a school highly, THE will exclude it if its research output within a given period is fewer than 1,000 relevant publications.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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