QS World University Rankings

Key Facts

QS World University Rankings

Published by Selection Criteria
Quacquarelli Symonds (UK)

In a first step, over 2,000 institutions of higher learning are surveyed, although no information is available on how the selection is made. 700 universities are then evaluated, and the top 400 are listed.
Data Basis & MethodologyIndicators
Bibliometrics: SCOPUS, a database for academic publications by Elsevier

Opinion surveys among peers and employers

Secondary analysis of university data
Academic reputation 40%

Employer reputation 10%

Citations 20%
(number of citations / number of members in the professorial staff)

Student-instructor ratio 20%
(number of instructors / number of students) 

International orientation 10%
(employees, students)


Academic reputation

The main basis for the QS Rankings is an opinion poll among academics (40%). The criticism of this method is directed at the subjective nature of the poll and to the fact that any single person is highly unlikely to be informed well enough to give accurate answers on all institutions. In addition, the respondents assess other universities by means of incomplete lists that not only exclude some universities, but also some countries. Although it is obvious that some sort of pre-selection occurs, the process is not transparent. Another problematic issue in the QS Rankings is the varying percentage of respondents per discipline.

Employer reputation

The employer surveys are limited mainly to international companies with clear preferences for graduates in given disciplines, resulting in high rankings for universities with specializations in economics and technical fields.


The database Scopus has served as the basis for analyzing citations in the QS Rankings since 2007. Although Scopus contains a limited number of book publications (an advantage over Web of Science), English-language publications and journal articles are over-represented, while publications in the arts/humanities and law are given short shrift.

International orientation

The international diversity of students and members of the professorial staff is an unreliable indicator because factors such as citizenship laws, official language(s) and size of country are not brought into the equation.