In a bulletin to its expert advisory group this week, the rankings' data provider Thomson Reuters suggested that this year's tables should include an indicator of a university's international research collaboration, based on the proportion of its research papers that are internationally co-authored.
Thomson Reuters said research had shown that university staff "generally regarded international collaboration as a valuable marker of the significance and profile of an institution".
The annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings, last published in September 2010, use 13 separate performance indicators, which cover the full range of a university's activities - teaching, research and knowledge transfer.
The 2010-11 tables were the results of 10 months of open consultation and expert input from a "platform group" of more than 50 specialists from 15 countries.
But consultation on further refinements for the 2011-12 tables opened earlier this year.
The current rankings employ two indicators aimed at measuring a university's international outlook - the proportion of staff that are of international origin (weighted at 3 per cent) and the proportion of students who are of international origin (weighted at 2 per cent).
It is argued that the ability of an institution to attract students and staff from around the world is an indicator of quality, despite some concerns about the influence of language and geographical factors.
Attracting staff in what Thomson Reuters describes as a "global war for talent" is widely seen as a key mark of esteem.
The proposed new indicator, which would look at the proportion of a university's total output of research papers that have one or more co-authors from another country, has been made possible by an analysis by Thomson Reuters of author addresses on the journal articles in the company's bibliometric database.
Ann Mroz, editor of THE, said: "We worked exceptionally hard to reach a new standard of depth and rigour with the 2010-11 rankings, but we are determined to keep listening and to keep working to improve the tables we publish."
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