THE Europe Teaching Rankings 2018: sharp learning curves

Our pioneering teaching ranking aims to start a new conversation in higher education, writes Phil Baty

July 11, 2018
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Browse the full Times Higher Education Europe Teaching Rankings 2018 results

This analysis is a world first.

While global university rankings have been around for 15 years, they have always had a heavy focus on evaluating research activity and an institution’s prestige. Such analyses, led by the renowned Times Higher Education World University Rankings, have rightly proved a vital source of comparative data for policymakers, university leaders and academics, as well as for students and their families.

But never before has an international university ranking been produced that focuses entirely on teaching and learning – putting the interests of students at its very heart.

Why not? Because it is extremely difficult to do.

Global rankings of research performance benefit from the ready availability of widely accepted data that can be fairly and simply compared across national borders. Good data on teaching are much harder to come by – and even harder to compare across diverse national university systems, with very different standards of data collection and reporting.

Nevertheless, THE is committed to developing deep, rich and novel insights into global higher education, in recognition of the wide range of university missions and priorities. There is no one model of excellence in global higher education. So we are very proud of this inaugural THE Europe Teaching Rankings.

With such a pioneering approach in a highly challenging environment, we must be frank about the challenges we have faced, and the compromises and caveats associated with this analysis.

First, this ranking does not cover all the European nations. To collect sufficiently rich data, and to help to ensure like-for-like comparisons, we narrowed our focus in this pilot year to western and south European countries.

The emphasis in this ranking on student engagement – driven by THE’s comprehensive survey of more than 30,000 current students across Europe – also meant that we had to make tough decisions on which type of institutions to include, focusing in this initial exercise on institutions with at least 5,000 students at bachelor’s level.

We also, of course, cannot rank any institution where we were not able to obtain sufficient data – whether from our student survey or from our institutional data collection system.

Our lead rankings analyst, Baerbel Eckelmann, explores the challenges in detail here, and the full methodology is outlined here, while our data director, Duncan Ross, explores some ideas for the future here.

We are proud of this pioneering analysis, and we are excited that it provides a much-needed fresh perspective on excellence in European higher education – offering a counterbalance to the dominance of research in traditional exercises and shining a light on excellence previously overshadowed by research rankings. But we are also aware of its limitations. It should be seen as a pilot ranking, and this publication should be seen as part of our continuing consultation.

The future of our groundbreaking new approach depends on further engagement from the European university community. Please get involved.

Contact us with questions, suggestions and enquiries at

Phil Baty is editorial director, global rankings.

Countries represented in the Europe Teaching Rankings 2018


Number of institutions in top 200+

Top institution


United Kingdom


University of Oxford




University of Navarra




Heidelberg University




University of Trento




Sorbonne University




University of Amsterdam




University of Lisbon


Republic of Ireland


University College Cork


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