World Reputation Rankings 2015 methodology

March 12, 2015

This year’s Academic Reputation Survey offers the best geographical and disciplinary spread yet.

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings are created using the world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey – a unique piece of research.

The Academic Reputation Survey, available in 15 languages, uses UN data as a guide to ensure the response coverage is as representative of world scholarship as possible. It is also evenly spread across academic disciplines.

The questionnaire, administered on behalf of THE by Elsevier, targets only experienced, published scholars, who offer their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines and at institutions with which they are familiar.

The 2015 rankings are based on a survey carried out between November 2014 and January 2015, which received a total of 10,507 responses from 142 countries. Some 9,794 responses were valid for the World Reputation Rankings: respondents on average had spent 15.3 years in higher education and research.

Achieving a better spread of responses

This year we achieved our most balanced spread of responses across the disciplines. The best represented subject was engineering and technology (20 per cent of responses), followed by the social sciences (19 per cent). The physical sciences achieved 17 per cent, the life sciences 15 per cent and the clinical, pre-clinical and health-related disciplines 13 per cent.

The representation of the arts and humanities dramatically improved this year, from 9 per cent in 2014 to 16 per cent.

The spread across the regions is better balanced than in the past, too. A total of 18.2 per cent of responses hail from North America, compared with 25 per cent last year, owing to the survey attracting a more globally representative sample.

In the survey, scholars are questioned at the level of their specific subject discipline. They are not asked to create a ranking themselves or to list a large range of institutions, but to name no more than 10 universities that they believe are the best, based on their own experience.

The survey data will be used alongside 11 objective indicators to help create the THE World University Rankings 2015-2016, which will be unveiled on 1 October 2015.

Calculating the scores

The reputation table ranks institutions according to an overall measure of their esteem that combines data on their reputation for research and teaching.

The two scores are combined at a ratio of 2:1, giving more weight to research because feedback from our expert advisers suggests that there is greater confidence in respondents’ ability to make accurate judgements about research quality.

The scores are based on the number of times an institution is cited by respondents as being the best in their field. The number one institution, Harvard University, was selected most often. The scores for all other institutions in the table are expressed as a percentage of Harvard’s, set at 100. For example, the University of Oxford received 80.4 per cent of the number of nominations that Harvard received, giving it a score of 80.4 against Harvard’s 100. This scoring system, which differs from the one used in the World University Rankings, is intended to provide a clearer and more meaningful perspective on the reputation data in isolation.

The top 100 universities by reputation are listed, but THE has decided to rank only the top 50 because the differentials between institutions after that point become very narrow. The institutions that make up the second half of the table are listed in groups of 10, in alphabetical order, although the number in each group may vary owing to some institutions at the thresholds having the same scores.


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