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What are university rankings?

University rankings measure how well universities perform in areas such as research, education, collaborations and sustainability. There are several organizations that produce university rankings and they all use different methods in order to determine a university’s placement and points. In addition to overall university rankings, several of these organizations also produce rankings of how well universities perform in various subject areas and specific subjects.

What do university rankings measure?

Some of the indicators measured are:

  • The institution's reputation (with surveys mainly aimed at academics)
  • Citations of scientific publications from the institution's researchers
  • Performance measures (number of students per faculty, income per faculty and degrees) and shares (share of international students, share of international faculty and share of students at advanced level)

In recent years, there are also rankings of how well universities perform when it comes to sustainability issues. These rankings measure, among other things, how universities are contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) are the organizations behind some of the most well-known university rankings and here you can find more information about the methods they use:

What are the effects of university rankings?

The purpose of university rankings is to compare how well universities perform in research, education and sustainability. Since the information used for each ranking includes several different parameters and comes from many different sources, the results should not be interpreted as an absolute truth, but as only one of many factors when assessing and comparing universities. However, since university rankings offer a comprehensive overview of how higher education institutions perform based on various parameters, a high ranking can among other things, lead to the following:

  • It will be easier to attract students (especially international students).
  • It will be easier to recruit teachers and researchers.
  • Alumni have better opportunities for more highly qualified jobs.
  • There are more opportunities for international collaborations with highly regarded universities.
  • There will be a greater chance of securing research funding and investments.