QS Stars: Find your perfect university match | Top Universities
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QS Stars: Find your perfect university match

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Craig OCallaghan

Updated May 30, 2024
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QS Stars

What criteria does QS Stars use to rate universities? 

Discover universities that excel in areas that matter most to you. Instead of comparing institutions against each other, QS Stars assess them in universally relevant criteria, highlighting the hidden strengths traditional rankings often overlook. 

The methodology ensures a fair and transparent evaluation that celebrates excellence in every area crucial for your academic journey.

New for 2024: Evolved insights, clearer choices

We've updated our methodology to reflect the world’s evolving priorities and help you make informed decisions about your future. Look for updated QS Stars assessments with our refined methodology starting in January 2024.

Clearer criteria

Previous QS Stars methodology (v5.2) New QS Stars methodology (v6)
Core criteria Learning experience
Learning environment Employability & outcomes
Specialist criteria Sustainability
Advanced criteria Research & innovation
  Global engagement

Updated categories

Previous QS Stars methodology (v5.2) New QS Stars methodology (v6)
Research/academic development Research/academic development
Teaching Teaching
Employability Employability
Internationalisation Global engagement
Social responsibility Social impact
Innovation Innovation and knowledge transfer
Arts & culture Arts
Inclusiveness Diversity, equity & inclusion
Environmental impact Environmental impact
Facilities/online learning Facilities/online learning
Subject ranking/programme strength Subject rankings/programme strength
  Entrepreneurship
  Good governance

Empower your university search with QS Stars. Go beyond rankings to discover your perfect university match.

Learning experience

The right learning experiences can pave the way for a lifetime of success. They equip you with valuable skills, expand your knowledge, and unleash your potential. That's why QS Stars puts your learning experience front and centre, focusing on two key areas: teaching and overall learning environment.

Compulsory categories

Teaching

Universities play a vital role in nurturing bright minds and inspiring the next generation of students. When evaluating teaching quality, we assess key indicators including faculty-student ratio, student satisfaction, retention rates, and the effectiveness of the learning management system to ensure you get the best possible support throughout your academic journey.

Loughborough University in the UK is an example of a university which has achieved a rating of five stars for teaching, one of nine five-star ratings the institution has achieved.

Facilities

University infrastructure is more than bricks and mortar – it’s a platform for growth and exploration. This indicator is a window into your future experience, we look at factors including sporting facilities, library resources, campus amenities, medical services, and the availability of student societies – everything that plays a role in shaping your university experience.

De Montfort University in the UK is an example of a university which has achieved a rating of five stars for facilities, one of six five-star ratings the institution achieves in addition to an overall rating of five stars.

OR
Online learning

Online learning offers numerous benefits, including a flexible schedule, reduced degree costs, and the ability to advance your career while pursuing further education. This category examines a range of indicators, including student-faculty engagement, student interaction, student services and technology as well as online mission statement, among others.

Elective categories

Subject ranking

This category allows universities to be evaluated for excellence based on their ranking in a broad subject area or a specific subject. We will also look at internationally or nationally recognised accreditations.

OR
Programme strength

Inspired by our QS Stars for Business School ratings, this category recognises universities that may not be ranked for a subject but boast exceptional programmes. Indicators include graduate employment rate, completion or retention, student satisfaction, applications per place, accreditations and the number of international students.

Arts

Previously known as Arts & culture, Arts is now an elective category under Learning experience. To assess a university's support for the arts, we examine four key areas: its facilities, concerts, events, and exhibitions; artistic achievements and community engagement; and cultural investments.

Employability & outcomes

In today’s highly competitive job market, employers want more than just good grades. They’re looking for graduates who can handle real-world challenges with both technical expertise and transferrable skills. They need adaptable talent who can thrive in changing landscapes. Being work-ready is a sign of your potential for long-term career success and growth, and universities have a responsibility to prepare students for this.

Compulsory category

Employability

In this category, we evaluate aspects such as employer reputation, graduate employment rate, employability outcomes (how many graduates work in jobs requiring higher education or in their field of study within 24 months of graduating), alumni impact, career support, apprenticeships and internships.

Elective category

Entrepreneurship

The Entrepreneurship category sheds light on universities with an entrepreneurial spirit, andassesses their ability to transform that spirit into career outcomes.

Sustainability

The most significant change to QS Stars’ methodology is the introduction of Sustainability as a core assessment dimension. 

As institutions prioritise sustainability in teaching and research, it’s crucial to examine how they are shifting towards sustainability. Sustainable universities have a unique ability to drive, and shape change through innovative practices and educate the next generation of responsible leaders.

Compulsory categories

Good governance

Good governance is the essential process of decision-making and implementation, crucial for institutions to achieve sustainable development goals. Indicators include transparent financial reporting, representation in university governing structures, strategy and risk management, and staff satisfaction.

Social impact

This indicator recognises the efforts universities are making to transform society for the better whether through charity work, human capital development, community investment and many more. 

Environmental impact

The importance of impacting positively on the environment is greater than ever before, particularly within educational institutions focused on developing the next generation of leaders and industry experts.  

Elective category

Diversity, equity & inclusion

This indicator demonstrates a university's ability to adapt and modify its processes to ensure accessibility to higher education for all students. This includes disability support, student diversity, and student organisations for underrepresented groups, among other factors.

Research & innovation

Building on the previous framework, this category delves into an institution's commitment to both research and innovation, and its ability to provide you with enriching research and academic development opportunities.

This flexible approach acknowledges the diverse strengths of institutions and allows them to present their unique contributions to the educational landscape.

Institutions must choose either Research or Academic development, but the Innovation & knowledge transfer indicator is elective.

Compulsory categories

Research

To measure how good a university’s research quality is, we break it down into four critical areas: papers per faculty, citations per paper, research funds and academic reputation.

OR
Academic development

In the previous methodology, we only assessed institution based on four critical areas which included faculty development programmes, faculty with PhDs, learning development centresand pedagogical innovation. In our new methodology, we are adding another area, which is teaching spending as a percentage of turnover.

Innovation & knowledge transfer

Previously known as Innovation, this elective indicator assessed institutions for their innovation by having unique patents, number of spin-off companies and publication of industrial research.

Global engagement

Previously known as Internalisation, this was once a criterion within the Core criteria.

This criterion looks at various factors including how many international students and staff the institutions have, the diversity of nationalities represented in their student body, and the breadth and depth of the institution’s partnerships with universities across the globe.

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