Breaking News! Oxford University ranks number one in THE World University Rankings!
(23 September 2016) Last year, we did an in-depth comparison of the updated rankings from ARWU, QS and THE in Ruth’s Rankings 15. This year we focus on any changes in methodology and top world and Asia/Pacific rankings. We did a brief update of the Shanghai Ranking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016 ARWU rankings in August.
The QS Methodology is stable as are the rankings. The six measures used in previous editions and their weightings are unchanged. The number of universities increased from 891 to 916. The first 400 receive individual ranks, 401-500 are ranked in increments of 10; 501-700 in increments of 50 and the remainder is all 700+. The universities can be sorted and re-ranked on each of the six indicators. For more in depth analysis, read the 2016-2017 digital supplement, Who Rules.
Last year, THE’s World University Rankings made the major change of switching to Elsevier’s Scopus data and doing their own analysis. This year the methodological changes are minor. The 13 indicators and the weightings are unchanged. Universities can be re-sorted on each indicator, but they are not re-ranked.
The change is in scope. There are 980 ranked universities in the 2016-2017 rankings out of a pool of over 1,300, up from the 801 in 2015-2016. Only 200 universities receive individual ranks. 201-400 are in bands of 50; 401-600 in bands of 100; 601-800 is the next band and then 800+.
Eligibility has changed by the addition of more than half a million books and book chapters added to 11 million research publications. This means that some additional universities met the 1,000 publications over the five year threshold. Others are included based on obtaining additional institutional data. There are ten new countries, including the Philippines and Sri Lanka and two new broad subject categories, Economics and Business, which are no longer a part of Social Sciences. THE subject rankings are available on 28 September 2016.
Comparing QS and THE
Both rankers use Elsevier data, reputation surveys and include institutional data such as international students and faculty. Both score over 900 universities in their 2016-2017 rankings. Adding more universities does little to change those at the top but provides additional benchmarks for those at the bottom if individual metrics are explored. More universities from developing countries are meeting the minimum entry standards.
Table 1 compares the top ten world and Asian universities in QS and THE for the current two years. There is stability within the rankings for the world, and similarity between the rankings except for University of California Berkeley and University College London. Eight of the top ten Asian universities are the same this year, but their places in the world rankings are not. The biggest gainer in THE was KAIST, which went up 59 places in the world while going down three world places in QS. The University of Hong Kong went up a place in the world rankings and down a spot in Asia.
Table 2 ranks the top universities in Asia-Pacific, based on the QS top 100. QS has 27 universities in its top 100 for 2016-2017 and there was only one change in the make-up of the list. While I am not known for using adverbs, the difference between the two Asian university rankings is dramatic. QS has 27 Asia Pacific universities in its top 100 while THE has 17. Hong Kong UST, one of the biggest losers in the QS rankings this year was one of the bigger gainers in THE.
These disparities led me to examine the country coverage, as shown in Table 3. Remembering that QS ranks 916 universities and THE includes 980, I expected a similar distribution. However, we can see that while THE has more Asia Pacific institutions, it has over 45% fewer in its top 200 and 500 hundred. Its use of broad bands makes tracking changes at the bottom difficult.
The rankings make world news. Within two and a half hours of the release of the THE World University Rankings on 21 September 2106, there were over 150 news articles. THE articles were primarily from the UK and Australia, Two and a half weeks after the release of QS rankings; there were over 300 articles (from a wide range of countries, including Russia, India and Saudi Arabia. Searches from Dow Jones Factiva)
The results in Tables 2 and 3 are yet other examples of why it is necessary to analyze results and compare among rankers to see which the best fits are. Look at the various components of the rankings and re-sort. Neither of these rankings includes underlying data, just changing scores. Stay tuned for two more rankings due out in October, US News Global and the scholarly papers ranking from NTU Taiwan.
Ruth’s Rankings News Flash! is written by Ruth A. Pagell, currently an adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. Before joining UH, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University. She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS – orcid.org/0000-0003-3238-9674.