General information on ranking

Name of the ranking QS World University Rankings
Geographical scope Global
Name of person in charge of ranking Ben Sowter
E-mail of person in charge of ranking
Website of the ranking
Publication frequency annual
First year of publication 2004
Most recent year of publication 2020
Date of last update 2021-05-23
Ranking organization Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd (QS)
Website of the methodology

The QS World University Rankings are designed to help prospective students make informed comparisons of leading universities around the world. Based on six performance indicators, the ranking assesses university performance across four areas: research, teaching, employability and internationalization. Four of the indicators are based on ‘hard’ data, and the remaining two are based on major global surveys – one of academics and another of employers – each the largest of their kind.

Academic reputation (40%)

Academic reputation is measured using a global survey, in which academics are asked to identify the institutions where they believe the best work is currently taking place within their own field of expertise. The aim is to give prospective students a sense of the consensus of opinion within the international academic community. For the 2021 edition the expert opinions of over 100,000 individuals in the higher education space regarding teaching and research quality at world’s universities are collated.  

Employer reputation (10%)

This metric is based on almost 50,000 responses to the QS Employer Survey, and asks employers to identify those institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative, effective graduates. The QS Employer Survey is the world’s largest of its kind. Its purpose is to give students a better sense of how universities are viewed in the graduate jobs market.

Faculty-to-student ratio (20%)

This is a simple measure of the number of academic staff employed relative to the number of students enrolled. In the absence of an international standard by which to measure teaching quality, this indicator is the most effective proxy metric for it. This indicator assesses the extent to which institutions are able to provide students with meaningful access to lecturers and tutors, and recognizes that a high number of faculty members per student will reduce the teaching burden on each individual academic. 

Citations per faculty (20%)

This indicator aims to assess universities’ research impact. To calculate this metric, QS takes the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution. A five-year publication window for papers is used (2014-2018) and a look at a six-year citation window is taken (2014-2019), reflecting the fact that it takes time for research to be effectively disseminated. All citations data is sourced using Elsevier’s Scopus database, the world’s largest repository of academic journal data. For the 2021 edition QS assessed 81 million citations from 13.9 million papers (self-citations were excluded). The citations are normalized to account for the fact that different fields have very different publishing cultures.

International faculty ratio (5%); international student ratio (5%)

A highly international university demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, which in turn suggests that it possesses a strong international brand.The last two indicators aim to assess how successful a university has been in attracting students and academics from other countries. This is based on the proportion of international students and faculty members at the institution. Each of these indicators contributes 5% to the overall ranking results.

Additional information

  • Type of publication: internet, mobile application, print - special publication
  • Internet users access to ranking: open access
  • Language of publication: English
  • Main target groups: employers, higher education institutions, policymakers, governments and funding agencies, students and parents
  • Level of comparison: institutional
  • Major dimensions covered: employability, internationalization, reputation, research, teaching
  • Structure of presentation: ordinary presentation (league tables)
  • Data sources: data collected from HEIs by ranking organization, survey conducted exclusively by ranking organization, third-party database (data not provided by HEI)
  • Quality assurance of ranking: advisory board, certification (e.g. IREG Audit)
  • Website of the ranking organization:
  • Types of the ranking organization: commercial/for-profit (incl. media)