China Subject Ratings: FAQs

We answer your frequently asked questions about the Times Higher Education China Subject Ratings 

June 21, 2021
Cover image of China Subject Ratings 2021 illustrating methodology

Times Higher Education’s China Subject Ratings provide insight into the strengths of global universities from a specifically Chinese perspective.

The China Subject Ratings 2021 were published in May 2021, comparing 90 mainland Chinese universities and an additional 1,420 universities worldwide across 89 subjects based on the classification of subjects from China’s Ministry of Education. Applying a grading system of A+ to C–, the ratings produce grades across more subjects than any other major rankings or ratings provider. The results reveal that Chinese universities are outperforming institutions in the rest of the world in the vast majority of disciplines.

Following the release, we received a number of queries about the China Subject Ratings. Here, we answer your questions.

The methodology for the 2021 edition of the ratings is available here.

Download our report for analysis and insights on the China Subject Ratings 2021.

If you would like to ask any questions or offer feedback, contact us at china@timeshighereducation.com.


Q&A

What are the metric weightings for each subject?
The metric weightings for each subject are included in our full methodology document (p17-19).

How do we map institutional data on 11 subjects to 89 more detailed subject areas?
The China Subject Ratings include universities from across the world, so we need to account for countries’ different subject classification systems. The 11 broad subject areas used in the THE World University Rankings allow us to be as inclusive as possible, while the 89 more detailed disciplines ensure that we are providing insights from a specifically Chinese perspective.

Institutional data is just one of our data sources. We also use bibliometric data and data from our reputation surveys, and in these areas the mapping is more precise.

The mapping process involves assessing which subjects are the most related and then creating a closeness indicator for each mapping, which we use to help determine metric weights. The subject mappings are included in our full methodology document (p11-14).

Why would a university’s rating have dropped between 2020 and 2021?
The 2020 edition of the ratings was a trial, which we used to gather feedback from universities before a full launch this year. We used that feedback to update the methodology as detailed here. This means that it is not possible to directly compare the results of the 2020 and 2021 ratings. The different results are to be expected given the changes in the methodology and increase in the number of participating universities. We expect more stability from this point on as the methodology and participating universities settle.

There are three other reasons, besides the methodological changes, why an institution’s rating in a particular subject area may have dropped:

  • The underlying data for that institution have changed
  • The underlying data for other institutions have changed
  • The number of other universities rated for that subject has changed.

The 2020 and 2021 ratings are based on different data collections and this may result in different scores. For example, a university’s research output in a particular subject may have changed, or its reputation may have altered year-on-year. These changes will be seen in the metric and overall scores.

Universities are given a score relative to the performance of other institutions in the ratings, so their rating may improve or decline depending on whether the data for other institutions have changed and whether there are more or fewer institutions being rated against a particular discipline. This means that even if an institution’s scores are exactly the same as the previous year, their ratings may be different as a result of the other institutions in the ratings. This is more likely to occur if an institution is close to the boundary between two different ratings.

How are the local and global reputation surveys combined?
The global reputation survey is based on a classification of 50 subjects and asks academics about universities globally. The China reputation survey is based on the classification of subjects from China’s Ministry of Education (MoE) and specifically asks about Chinese universities.

For universities outside mainland China, the reputation score was based on the global reputation survey using our mapping between reputation subjects and MoE subjects. For universities within mainland China, we blended the two surveys together, giving greater weighting to the China survey given that it was fully aligned with the MoE subjects.

Why are there are only 11 metrics in the China Subject Ratings, but 13 in the World University Rankings?
The World University Rankings provide insights on subject-level performance in 11 broad areas, while the China Subject Ratings do this for 89 more detailed subjects. For the majority of the metrics, we can map the broad subjects and detailed subjects. However, it is not possible to adopt this approach for two of the teaching environment metrics in the WUR (doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio and doctorates-awarded-to-academic-staff ratio) and so we have had to exclude these indicators in the CSR.

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