How to use the rankings: frequently asked questions

Practical advice on how to find what you're looking for, with guidance on how to interpret and use the results of university rankings.

September 14 2018
Questions

General

What are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings?

The THE World University Rankings are the gold standard global higher education ranking system.

For more than a decade, Times Higher Education has produced an ordered list of universities, updated annually and trusted by students, parents and academics.

The universities are rated in five categories: Teaching, Research, Research Influence, Innovation and International Outlook.

The THE World University Rankings are unique in using these five scores to recognise excellence across all core missions of a leading global university: research, teaching, knowledge transfer and international activity.

How do I use the rankings to choose a university?

The rankings can help you choose a university by giving you more information about the quality of the teaching, research, innovation and environment at different institutions. It also provides an overall comparison between institutions.

However, the rankings cannot make a decision for you. Statistics do not give you a full picture of what it is really like at a university.

Combined with advice from current students and academics, and visits to the universities that you are interested in, the rankings can be used to make an informed choice about which university is right for your unique circumstances and priorities.

Ultimately, only you will know whether a university is a good fit for you. For this reason, THE never gives direct or personal advice about which university you should choose.

To help you with the decision process, in the World University Rankings table under performance breakdown, you can sort universities by each performance indicator to suit your priorities, and you can further explore by key statistics to discover more information about the university environment.

If you are interested in how a university ranks for a specific subject, you can choose the relevant subject ranking – see here for a full list of the subject rankings.

I have an offer from a specific university. Should I accept it?

THE cannot make that decision for you, since every person’s circumstances are unique. You can browse the rankings to compare how that university ranks against others for the same subject or in the same region. You can also explore the student advice guides to hear from experts, students and graduates about the university experience.

Methodology

How is the ranking calculated?

Overall rank is calculated from scores for 13 different performances indicators, grouped into five categories: Teaching, Research, Research Influence, Innovation and International Outlook.

To produce the 13 indicators for each university, THE’s in-house data team analyses data that universities supply (for example, staff-to-student ratios, doctorates awarded, international students and research income), the results of a “reputation survey” sent to selected academics across the world, and information about published research papers and citations, using Elsevier’s Scopus database.

Each performance indicator (and correspondingly each of the five broader performance categories) is assigned a percentage weighting in the overall ranking score.

Teaching quality counts for 30 per cent, Research counts for 30 per cent, Research Influence counts for 30 per cent, International Outlook counts for 7.5 per cent and Innovation counts for 2.5 per cent.

You can read more about the methodology and why the performance indicators are relevant markers of world-leading universities in The World University Rankings: Explained.

What do the five "performance breakdown" scores mean?

Teaching is a measure of the learning experience and quality at a university. It is based on the reputation among academics, and statistics about staff, students and research.

Research is a measure of both the quality and quantity of research output, based on reputation, research income and productivity.

Citations measures how influential that research is, and counts the number of times work published by academics at the university is cited in other papers.

International Outlook measures the environment and attitude with respect to international students, staff and research. It is based on international-to-domestic ratios across staff, students and research collaborations.

Innovation or Industry Income is a measure of innovation at a university, based on how much the university earns from its inventions and industrial work.

What are the "key statistics"?

Key statistics provide more information about the student experience and university environment. In addition to the overall rank and performance breakdown, you can see:

Number of students
Staff-to-student ratio
Male-to-female students
Percentage of international students

If you are looking for:

More information about the universities

For facts and data about specific countries, universities and courses, and to hear from experts and students themselves, head to the THE Student section, where you can search the university directory, keep up to date with student news, read blogs written by students from all over the world and find helpful guides to universities, admissions, finance, employment and many other topics.

A specific university

You can search the rankings by university name or country, using the search tool at the top of the table. If the university you are looking for is not in the rankings, you can search the university directory by name or country to find more information. You can also search the rankings from within the directory by selecting World University Rankings and entering the number ranks you want to search between.

Universities in a specific country or region

You can filter the rankings table using the filter tool at the top to see only universities in countries of your choosing. You can filter by as many countries as you want. For example, if you wanted to see only universities in the US, UK and Australia, you could add those three tags in the filter box at the same time. Alternatively you can look at our "Best in" pages, which break down the best universities in a number of countries around the world. 

A specific course to study

If you already know what you want to study, the Subject Rankings can help you find the best universities for that subject. The subject rankings are:

Arts and humanities
Clinical, pre-clinical and health
Engineering and technology
Life sciences
Physical sciences
Social sciences
Education
Law
Psychology
Computer Science
Business and Economics

Further questions:

Why can’t I find a university I am looking for?

If you can’t find a university when you search the rankings by university name, it could be because that university is not ranked, or is known under a different name. Try searching the rankings by country instead, or search the university directory to find an unranked university.

A university may not be ranked for two reasons: either it does not fulfil the inclusion criteria for the rankings, or it did not score highly enough to be included.

A university is not included if it does not teach undergraduates, if it teaches only one subject, or if it produces fewer than an average of 200 research papers a year.

Is there a different table for undergraduate and postgraduate study?

There is not a different table for undergraduates and postgraduates. However, the same performance metrics are relevant to postgraduates, particularly given that the Teaching metric actually takes into account doctorate-to-bachelor student ratio and doctorates awarded per number of academic staff ratio.

Why do the rankings change every year?

The rankings are dynamic and there are significant changes year-on-year due to changes in university performance.

Why has my university dropped rank?

There could be many reasons why your university has dropped, most likely due to an actual change in how the university is perceived or performs.

A university’s score depends on its reputation, research income and influence, among other more stable factors. If policy changes at a university affect how it is perceived, it could score lower in the reputation survey of academics. Likewise, policy changes can affect research income, productivity and even impact.

For more information and news about your specific university, try searching THE Professional or the Student section for policy news or information about student life.

What subject ranking does my course fall under?

  Course Subject Ranking
A Accounting and Finance Business and Economics
  Acoustics Engineering and Technology
  Academic Studies in Education Education
  Aerospace Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Life Sciences
  Allergy Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Anaesthesiology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Anatomy and Morphology Life Sciences
  Anthropology Social Sciences
  Archaeology Arts and Humanities
  Architecture Arts and Humanities
  Area Studies Social Sciences
  Art Arts and Humanities
  Asian Studies Arts and Humanities
  Astronomy and Astrophysics Physical Sciences
  Automation and Control Systems Engineering and Technology
B Behavioural Sciences Life Sciences
  Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology Life Sciences
  Biomedical Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Biomedical Social Sciences Social Sciences
  Biophysics Life Sciences
  Business Business and Economics
C Cardiovascular System and Cardiology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Chemical Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Chemistry Physical Sciences
  Civil Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Classics Arts and Humanities
  Clinical Psychology Psychology
  Communication Social Sciences
  Computer and Information Science Computer Science
  Construction and Building Technology Engineering and Technology
  Criminology and Penology Social Sciences
  Crystallography Physical Sciences
  Cultural Studies Arts and Humanities
D Dance Arts and Humanities
  Decision Support/Statistics Social Sciences
  Demography Social Sciences
  Dentistry and Oral Surgery Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Dermatology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
E Earth and Environmental Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Earth Sciences Physical Sciences
  Ecology, Evolution and Environment Life Sciences
  Economics and Econometrics Business and Economics
  Education  Education
  Electrical and Electronic Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinical, Pre-clinical & Health
  Energy and Fuels Engineering and Technology
  Entomology Life Sciences
  Ethnic Studies Social Sciences
F Family Studies Social Sciences
  Film, Radio and Television Arts and Humanities
  Forestry Life Sciences
G Gastroenterology and Hepatology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Genetics and Heredity Life Sciences
  Geography Social Sciences
  Geriatrics and Gerontology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
H Haematology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Health Care Sciences and Services Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  History Arts and Humanities
  History and Philosophy of Science Arts and Humanities
I Imaging Science and Photographic Technology Engineering and Technology
  Immunology Life Sciences
  Industrial Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Infectious Diseases Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Instruments and Instrumentation Engineering and Technology
  International Relations Social Sciences
L Languages, Philology and Linguistic Studies Arts and Humanities
  Law Law
  Legal Medicine Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Library Science Social Sciences
  Literature Arts and Humanities
M Marine Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Materials Science Engineering and Technology
  Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences Social Sciences
  Mathematics and Statistics Physical Sciences
  Mechanical Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Mechanics Engineering and Technology
  Medical Ethics Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Medical Informatics Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Medical Laboratory Technology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Medicine, General and Internal Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering Engineering and Technology
  Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences Physical Sciences
  Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering and Technology
  Music Arts and Humanities
  Mycology Life Sciences
N Nanotechnology Physical Sciences
  Neurosciences and Neurology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Nuclear Science and Technology Engineering and Technology
  Nursing Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Nutrition and Dietetics Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
O Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Oncology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Operations Research and Management Science Engineering and Technology
  Ophthalmology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Orthopedics Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Otorhinolaryngology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
P Paediatrics Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Palaeontology Life Sciences
  Parasitology Life Sciences
  Pathology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Pharmacology and Pharmacy Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health/Life Sciences
  Philosophy Arts and Humanities
  Physics Physical Sciences
  Physiology Life Sciences
  Plant Sciences Life Sciences
  Political Science Social Sciences
  Polymer Science Physical Sciences
  Psychiatry Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Psychology Psychology
  Public Administration Social Sciences
  Public, Environmental and Occupational Health Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
R Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Rehabilitation Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Respiratory System Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Rheumatology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Robotics Engineering and Technology
S Social Issues Social Sciences
  Social Work Social Sciences
  Sociology Social Sciences
  Sport Sciences Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Surgery Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
T Telecommunications Engineering and Technology
  Teacher Training Education
  Theatre Arts and Humanities
  Theology and Religion Arts and Humanities
  Toxicology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health/Life Sciences
  Transplantation Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
  Transportation Engineering and Technology
  Tropical Medicine Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
U Urban Studies Social Sciences
  Urology and Nephrology Clinical, Pre-clinical and Health
V Veterinary Sciences Life Sciences
  Virology Life Sciences
W Women's Studies Social Sciences
Z Zoology Life Sciences

Read more: THE World University Rankings explained

 

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