Times Higher Education US college rankings: frequently asked questions

THE's new ranking of colleges is due to be published in September 2016

June 10, 2016
United States map
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The first WSJ/THE US College Ranking is out now

Is the Times Higher Education (THE) planning to launch a US universities ranking?

Yes. We have launched a public consultation to help us understand how the US market could be better served by a college ranking system. This public consultation involves US higher education institutions and staff, associations and researchers and the results will be shared back with interested parties via a live webinar on 30 June 2016

Why is the THE doing this?
Current US university and college rankings are not suitable for the job they are meant to do. They too often fall into the trap of measuring selectivity or institutional wealth or are too narrow to allow credible public comparisons. This is the clear conclusion we have reached following a year of extensive consultation with bodies in the US such as university and college associations, the Department of Education and think tanks, as well as university leaders, academics and US media commentators.

What makes THE better placed to launch a new US university and college ranking system?
For five decades, THE has provided analysis and insight for universities and colleges. As you’d expect in the internet age, we’re providing more and more of this information in the form of quantifiable data. Our team of experienced, award-winning journalists works alongside our team of dedicated data scientists, to ensure that we truly understand what makes universities tick. Better rankings are predicated on better data science. In over a decade of analysing university performance, we have time and again pioneered new performance metrics. 

We developed the world’s first multi-faceted global rankings, covering both research and aspects of teaching, back in 2004, later developing the current 13-indicator methodology for the THE World University Rankings. This has become a gold standard performance benchmark across the world, built into government policy in Russia, Japan, China and many other countries. Today, our institutional data portal includes data from 1,300 institutions in 93 countries. Unlike some rankings organisations, we only do education - we do not rank universities, alongside cars, or hospitals. We also understand the complexities of universities and are open to the fact that rankings and data alone can not capture all the wonderful things universities do.

To help us foster debate and stay close to the latest thinking in the university world, we run annual global gatherings of university leaders and strategists, where discussion of university performance is always high on the agenda. We have summits in ten countries since 2013, attracting over 1,850 high level attendees from 72 countries. 

How will the THE US university and college rankings work?
While we are certain we want our US rankings to reflect the voice of the student and reflect the quality of learning and value added by American universities, we recognise that the more they reflect the weight of opinion of US university leaders and experts, the better they will be. That’s why we are making such an effort to listen hard to what the sector wants. The rankings we are determined to launch will put front and centre a university’s ability to deliver value for money and a good quality education for its students. Our rankings will take account of the views of students on serious issues directly related to their learning experience and the institution’s contribution to their development. 

In order to examine specific areas of student engagement, learning, student recommendation and value for money, we have launched one of the most wide-reaching national student engagement surveys ever undertaken. The THE Student Survey will be conducted at around 1,000 universities across the US, asking upwards of 50,000 students in the first year for their opinions on the effectiveness and value of their education. By exploring these in a focused, concise way we will be able to see much more about the impact of college on students. We think the opinion of students is too important to hide so for the first time this type of information will be put into the public domain. 

We will bring to bear other data that are unique to the THE World University Rankings such as our Academic Reputation Survey, which provides a global perspective on the quality of teaching and research based on a survey of 10,000 scholars in 133 countries. Between our THE Student Survey and Academic Reputation Survey, we will add 1.2 million data points to our system each year that are directly relevant to US universities and colleges and students considering studying in the US. 

By combining new inputs with established and verified datasets, we will explore key elements of teaching in a methodology that is truly independent and truly explores the effectiveness of colleges and universities – including measuring the value added by education. 

How will the THE US rankings help universities and students to be successful?
By listening clearly to important voices across US higher education, we are making sure that our new rankings will help universities and students make better decisions. Our rankings will avoid falling into the trap of measuring selectivity and institutional wealth, but better reflect university missions. 

Our aim, in working with the wider US higher education community, is to design a new set of rankings that go further than anything available today. We will provide powerful access to the data through tools that are designed in close partnership with universities. It is really only in the last few years that we have had the capacity to deliver something truly unique and pioneering for the US market. Our US operations will be run out of a classic university town, Chicago, where we opened our US office in 2015. We will take the rankings to an international audience, helping US institutions reach overseas academics, build partnerships, and reach the 5 million internationally mobile students planning their academic careers.

More about the new THE US college ranking

Join the conversation on Twitter by using #USCollegeRankings and citing@THEWorldUniRank

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