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Rankings: Three Facts You Need to Know

1. Rankings – they can tell you a lot about a university but at same time, may not tell you everything you need to know. No two rankings use the same methodology, examine the same criteria, or give these criteria the same weightage. How much importance you want to give to a university’s ranking is up to you, but here are three key facts you should know about rankings:
Fact 1: There are many international university rankings
Students in Singapore usually refer to the Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings and the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, as they are cited more frequently by our local media. However, there are also other global ranking systems, such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) or individual countries’ national rankings that students can refer to. Refer to Table I for a list of some global ranking systems.
Fact 2: Different factors, different weightage
Ranking systems rate universities by measuring a set of criteria, and provide detailed comparisons of universities. However, different rankings measure different things with different emphasis. For example, the THE Rankings measure more than ten indicators1, with a focus on the teaching and research quality of academic staff, while the QS Rankings measure six indicators2, and pay most attention to the academic reputation of universities3.
1 13 indicators grouped into five broad areas – teaching (30% of overall ranking score), research (30%), citations (30%), industry income (2.5%) and international outlook (7.5%).
2 Indicators include academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty/student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international student ratio (5%) and international staff ratio (5%).
3 Academic reputation is a measure of academics’ responses worldwide, regarding institutions in which they believe the best work is currently taking place within their field of expertise.
Fact 3: Different data collection methods
Different ranking systems collect data differently. While some ranking systems rely more on ‘hard’ quantifiable data such as academic staff to student ratio, and number of citations, others may focus equally if not more, on subjective opinions of academics and employers from global surveys.
2. University rankings do provide a quick guide to compare the international standing of universities. However, do plenty of research to find out more about the criteria of the ranking systems and the indicators they measure, before deciding which ranking system is the most relevant in your search / selection of a university.  
3. You may want to find out more about rankings by reading some of these commentaries in Table II

Table I: Examples of Global Ranking Systems

Ranking System URL Link
1 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)
2 Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)
3 CWTS Leiden Ranking
4 QS World University Rankings
5 Times Higher Education World University Rankings!/page/0/length/25
6 U-Multirank!/home?trackType=home  
7 Webometrics

Note: This list of global ranking systems is not comprehensive, and is provided as examples only.

Table II: List of Commentaries on University Rankings
Title Author Publication Date of Publication URL Link
1 University rankings schizophrenia? Europe impact study Hazelkorn, Ellen University World News 14 Nov 2014
2 University rankings: Which world university rankings should we trust? Marzal, Andrew The Telegraph 4 Oct 2012
3 University rankings: A need for critical reflection Holden, Philip TODAY 17 Sep 2014
4 The problem with university rankings Hazelkorn, Ellen SciDev.Net 11 Mar 2009

Note: The commentaries are provided for information only. They reflect the personal opinions of the authors, editors or other contributors and are in no way a reflection of the official position of the Committee for Private Education.