General information on ranking

Name of the ranking (in English) QS USA University Rankings
Name of the ranking (in original) QS USA University Rankings
Scope of the ranking general ranking
Website of the ranking
First year of publication 2020
Most recent year of publication 2021
Date of last update 2023-05-23
Publication frequency annual
Ranking organization Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd (QS)
Methodology website

Universities are evaluated according to the following 17 metrics falling into four broad groupings:


Employer reputation (10%)

It is based on almost 45,000 responses to QS Employer Survey and asks employers to identify those institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative, effective graduates.

Alumni outcomes (10%)

QS has been recording the educational background of over 30,000 highly influential employers, sector leaders, and award[1]winning professionals, as well as individual professionals both senior and junior. The aim is to rank which universities are proving themselves as sources of successful employees and employers and can claim to have positively influenced their alumni’s development. The criterion is based on the fact that universities with strong track records in this field will have the kind of high-quality alumni networks that provide students with connections, career advice, and internship/work placement opportunities – all of which boost employability. 

Salary after 10 years (4.5%)

This indicator looks at the average salary of graduates that received federal financial aid, 10 years after first entering university. 


Gender pay gap (2.5%)

The average weighted monthly salaries of both genders at professorial level only were compared within an institution, as it was assumed that there should be little discrepancy at this level. 

Faculty gender diversity (2.5%)

This indicator aims to capture whether there is equal representation of both male and female employees within the faculty of a higher education institution.

Ratio of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants (5%)

This indicator focuses on the percentage of enrolled undergraduate students that were awarded a Pell grant. The Pell grant program provides grant assistance to eligible undergraduate postsecondary students with demonstrated financial need to help meet higher education expenses. 

Students’ ethnicity mix (5%)

The student fabric of a higher education institution is an important indicator that reflects its openness and attention to nurture a diverse, culturally sensitive and tolerant student cohort. An institution with a diverse student ethnic mix demonstrates it cultivates inclusiveness and promotes social mobility, while offering its students a diverse student learning experience crucial in today’s global world.

Number of Fulbright recipients per institution (5%)

This indicator looks at which US institutions are top producers of US Fulbright students over a combined period of 3 years.

Proportion of international students (5%)

A highly international university acquires and confers several advantages. It demonstrates an ability to attract students from across the world, which in turn suggests that it possesses a strong international brand. 


Average instructional expenditure per FTE student (10%)

Average teaching spending per FTE student demonstrates how much financial resources a higher education institution spends on average on teaching per student. This indicator is used as a proxy to determine how strongly an institution is committed to offer the most effective learning environment possible. 

Retention rate (5%)

A measure of the rate at which students persist in their educational program at an institution, expressed as a percentage.

Pell grant student graduation rates compared with other students (3.5%)

This indicator focuses on how well an institution supports students in financial need that were awarded a Pell grant recipient in graduating within 150% of normal time to program completion, compared to the average graduation rate for students that did not receive a Pell grant or Stafford loan.

Student-faculty ratio (3.5%)

This indicator assesses the extent to which institutions are able to provide undergraduate students with meaningful access to faculty members and recognizes that a high number of faculty members per undergraduate student will reduce the teaching burden on each individual academic. 

RESEARCH (28.5%)

Academic reputation (13.5%)

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.

Citations per paper (7%)

It assesses the number of citations per research paper published, aiming to give an idea of the impact each institution’s research is having within the research community.

International Research Network (IRN) (5%)

This indicator assesses the degree of international diversity in terms of research collaboration for each evaluated institution. The Margalef Index, widely used in environmental sciences, has been adapted to estimate the richness of the selected international research partners for a given institution. 

Partnerships with Employers per Faculty (3%)

This indicator uses Scopus database to establish which universities are collaborating successfully with global companies to produce citable, transformative research. The figure is adjusted to account for the number of faculty at each university.

Additional information

  • Main target groups: students and parents, higher education institutions, employers, policy makers, governments and funding agencies
  • Level of comparison: institutional: 352
  • Major dimensions covered: employability, internationalization, reputation, research, teaching, gender equality
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