Rating universities on inclusiveness: QS Stars | Top Universities

Rating universities on inclusiveness: QS Stars

By Staff W

Updated September 2, 2022 Updated September 2, 2022

The inclusiveness category shows a university’s strength in adapting and modifying its processes to make higher education accessible to all students. Here we are looking at the adaptability of a university’s processes that supports marginalised group of students, including gender equality, inclusion of disabled students and students from lower income groups.

Therefore this area looks at the overall accessibility of a university to students: in particular scholarships and bursaries, disability access, gender balance and low-income outreach.

Scholarships and bursaries

Scholarships are intended to reward a student’s academic achievement and educational progression. They make programmes more accessible to students. More affordable programme costs enable students to potentially travel as part of their course, getting exposure to new cultures, and develop their interpersonal skills.

Full points are awarded for institutions that allocate 2% of turnover to scholarship funding, grants and bursaries or 1% of the student’s population have scholarships covering at least half of their fees.

Disabled access

QS Stars considers how institutions are improving access to higher education and inclusivity for those with disabilities. Full points are awarded if institutions achieve at least three of the following:

  1. Having mental health support services
  2. Built-in accessibility computer systems for the visually impaired
  3. Sign language interpreters or note-takers for hearing impaired
  4. Maps identifying wheelchair ramps, disabled toilets and parking access
  5. Dedicated academic support for students with learning disabilities

Student cohort diversity

QS Stars evaluates student cohort diversity in the following ways:

Gender balance



For this indicator we assess the ratio of male to female students studying at the university. Maximum points are allocated to the cohort which has 50:50 ratio scaled down to 60:40 ratio.


Ethnic diversity


For this indicator QS Stars looks at the total number of students studying at the university who belong to the ethnic minority groups of that country.


Low-income outreach

A university’s commitment to extending access to higher education and inclusivity for those from low-income backgrounds is assessed in one of two ways. Points may be awarded on a sliding scale depending on the percentage of low-income students, from 15% to 5%. QS Stars relies on national standards of what constitutes ‘low-income’, and in some countries or regions they have to rely on proxies such as ‘students eligible for receiving low-income scholarships’ rather than looking at the actual income.

Alternatively, these points can be claimed by universities which invest 1% of their turnover or USD$2 million in campaigns targeted at low-income families. The amount spent by the institution on recruiting low-income applicants or targeting applicants from low-income areas is considered, as well as the funds for current students who are considered low-income, including hardship scholarships and bursaries. 

QS Stars does the evaluating for you, so you can easily see where a university’s strengths are in order to find a programme that suits your priorities. Take a look at which universities have achieved a high QS Stars rating for commitment to inclusivity within higher education.


This article was originally published in August 2014 . It was last updated in September 2022

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