QS Stars: Methodology

QS Stars: Methodology main image

What criteria does QS Stars use when rating universities, and why?

There has been much discussion around what attributes form a world-class university, particularly with the growing popularity of university rankings and the criteria used to assess universities worldwide.

Much criticism has been directed to the criteria used in rankings and other assessments, based on the argument that universities are different to one another and therefore need to be assessed on a range of categories that recognize distinct strengths.

The following criteria, the basis for QS Stars ratings, were selected as the key pillars of what makes a world class university, taking into account a number of factors that are often overlooked in university rankings and other assessments.


Indicators considered here include assessments of research quality amongst academics, productivity (i.e. number of papers published), citations (i.e. how recognized and referred to those papers are by other academics) and awards (e.g. Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals).


A key role of a university is the nurture of tomorrow's finest minds, inspiring the next generation of potential research academics. Typical indicators in teaching quality assessments are collation of student feedback through national student surveys, further study rate and student faculty ratio.


Graduate employability encompasses more than academic strength, focusing on ‘work-readiness’ - the ability to work effectively in a multi-cultural team, to deliver presentations, to manage people and projects. Common indicators in this area are surveys of employers, graduate employment rates and careers service support.


Here, effective indicators could be the proportion of international students and staff, the numbers of exchange students arriving and departing, the number of nationalities represented in the student body, the number and strength of international partnerships with other universities and the presence of religious facilities.


University infrastructure is an indicator which enables students to know what to expect from their university experience. Indicators such as sporting, IT, library and medical facilities, as well as the number of students societies are considered within this criterion.

Online/Distance learning

This category looks at various indicators such as student services and technology, track record, student faculty engagement, student interaction, commitment to online and reputation of the university.

Social Responsibility

Engagement measures how seriously a university takes its obligations to society by investing in the local community as well as in charity work and disaster relief. It also analyses the regional human capital development and environmentally awareness.


Innovation, the output of the universities activities and findings to economy, society and culture, has become increasingly relevant for universities.

Arts & Culture

Effective indicators are the number of concerts and exhibitions organized by the institution, the number of credits and cultural awards and cultural investment.


This area looks at the accessibility of the university to students, particularly at scholarships and bursaries, disability access, gender balance and low-income outreach.

Specialist Criteria

Excellence in a narrow field is as valid a claim to world-class status as competence in the round. These criteria are designed to extend credit where it's due. This category looks at accreditations and discipline rankings.

Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by QS Staff Writer
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I would like to compare between two universities in all criteria on which that ranking was based. Is that available?

Hi Mona. You can view all the universities rated by QS Stars so far here: http://www.topuniversities.com/qs-stars

If you're interested in comparing universities, you may also want to check out the latest QS World University Rankings: http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2013

Here you can use the 'Compare' button to select 2 or more universities, and compare them on the different indicators used to create the ranking. Hope this helps!

Good day
I would appreciate if you would guide me on how to get IRAQ local universities to be ranked in your standards

this is very helpful....

I cannot open the world university ranking after they show the country and university eg. Japan, university and in the university I cannot get a detail of world, university ranking something wrong before 31 12 2013 everything was fine now it is not working why????

Hello, I am MS in Industrial Engineering, do research on methods and tools used to compile the rankings College, especially with regard to Programs Graduate from the survey has to realize that a variation of some indicators more their scent both alike but different in the method applied, and checked their indicators more unable enchergar statistical method, such as standard or z-score analysis or even as the model of CAPES is more subjective in their scent indicators are similar to everyone.

I am very keen on this online program and sholarships for business!!!

i need help for PhD admission in any world reputed university

Hi Sher. We have a lot of advice about PhD admissions and requirements included in this guide: http://www.topuniversities.com/blog/what-phd

If you're able to attend one of our QS World Grad School Tour events, you'll also have the opportunity to get face-to-face advice and meet admissions representatives from around the world. You can find your nearest event here: http://www.topuniversities.com/events/qs-world-grad-school-tour

Hope this is helpful, and best of luck!


Does QS does rating by faculties in a university?

Hi Hazman. Yes, you can see the QS World University Rankings by Faculty here: http://www.topuniversities.com/faculty-rankings
We also provide rankings in 30 individual subject areas, here: http://www.topuniversities.com/subject-rankings
Hope these are helpful!

I'd like to know how each of these criteria are assessed? Using objective or subjective assessments?

Hi Kathryn. Thanks for your interest in QS Stars! Points are awarded in each category based on whether institutions meet certain criteria, such as a minimum percentage of faculty members with a PhD, or number of research papers published per faculty member. You can see the full details here: http://www.iu.qs.com/services/qs-stars/qs-stars-methodology/

Hello. I wonder why there are some schools that don't have QS stars. Even some of them are top ranked. Thanks.

Hi Yuyang. QS Stars is an opt-in service - universities have to request to be assessed, which is why not all institutions currently have a rating. Hope this makes more sense now!

Thanks for sharing this such very useful blog.

Could you clarify the methodology for the World University Ranking? What is the metric for student:faculty ratio? Where are the sources of this metric?

Hi Mary, here's the article on the QS World University Rankings Methodology. Hopefully you find the information you need!


I would like to know the methodology of faculty rankings after 100th . Is it being ranked according to alphabetical order in their grouping ? eg. For faculty of law, the ranking of 100-150, is it being ranked according to the alphabetical order ? Thank you in advance

Hi Liyana, yes you're quite right grouped universities receive a group rank, e.g. 100-150. All schools with a group rank are of equal position due to equal points given. I hope this helps, Laura

I don't understand how you do the rankings. For example, the Leventhal School of Accounting at the University of Southern California is ranked in the top five in the U.S. for accounting programs and in the top ten, as measured by citations and research publications in the top three accounting and finance journals. Yet, it is ranked much, much lower than, for example, Monash University or the University of Melbourne. Oxford University does not even have a sizeable accounting department.

Please explain.


Hi Raj, the article above outlines our methodology for QS Stars - for a look at the methodology for the QS World University Rankings, see this article and for the subject ranking methodology, see here. Laura

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