Impact Rankings 2023: quality education (SDG 4) methodology

May 25, 2023

This ranking focuses on universities’ contribution to early years and lifelong learning, their research on quality education and their commitment to inclusive education. Because early years provision and lifelong learning are not the main focus of education at universities, this table should not be used to assess the overall quality of teaching at a university.

View the methodology for the Impact Rankings 2023 to find out how these data are used in the overall ranking.


Research on early years and lifelong learning education (27%)

  • Proportion of research papers that are viewed or downloaded (10%)
  • Proportion of research papers in the top 10 per cent of journals as defined by Citescore (10%)
  • Number of publications (7%)

This focuses on research that is relevant to quality education, measuring paper views, the proportion of papers in the top 10 per cent of cited journals and the volume of research produced.

The data are provided by Elsevier’s Scopus dataset, based on a query of keywords associated with SDG 4 (quality education) and supplemented by additional publications identified by artificial intelligence. The data include all indexed publications between 2017 and 2021 and are normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Proportion of graduates with a teaching qualification (15.4%)

To understand how a university is supporting early years education, we measure the proportion of its graduates who receive a degree that would entitle them to teach at primary school level in their country. The data relate to the number of graduates in the 2021 academic year.

The data were provided directly by universities and normalised across the range using Z-scoring.

Lifelong learning measures (26.8%)

  • Free access to educational resources for those not studying at the university (5%)
  • Educational activities that are open to the general public, such as lectures or specific courses (5%)
  • Educational events that provide vocational training for those not studying at the university (5%)
  • Educational outreach activities in the local community, including schools (5%)
  • Policies to ensure that these activities are open to all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, disability, immigration status or gender (6.8%)

The evidence was provided directly by universities, evaluated and scored by THE and not normalised.

Proportion of first-generation students (30.8%)

This is defined as the number of students starting a degree who identify as being the first person in their immediate family to attend university, divided by the total number of students starting a degree. All data are provided as full-time equivalents.

The data were provided directly by universities and normalised across the range using Z-scoring.


When we ask about policies and initiatives – for example, the existence of mentoring programmes – our metrics require universities to provide the evidence to support their claims. In these cases, we give credit for the evidence, and for the evidence being public. These metrics are not usually size normalised.

Evidence is evaluated against a set of criteria, and decisions are cross-validated where there is uncertainty. Evidence need not be exhaustive – we are looking for examples that demonstrate best practice at the institutions concerned.

Time frame

In general, the data used refer to the closest academic year to January to December 2021. The date range for each metric is specified in the full methodology document.


The ranking is open to any university that teaches at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Although research activities form part of the method­ology, there is no minimum research requirement for participation.

THE reserves the right to exclude universities that it believes have falsified data, or are no longer in good standing.

Data collection

Institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings. On the rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, we enter a value of zero.

View the full methodology for the THE Impact Rankings 2023 here.

The THE Impact Rankings 2023 will be published at 11:30am BST on 1 June.

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