Rating universities on good governance: QS Stars | Top Universities

Rating universities on good governance: QS Stars

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated Updated

What is good governance? 

Think of it as a set of clear guidelines and practices that ensure your university is managed effectively and transparently. Everyone involved is treated fairly, decisions are made openly, resources are used responsibly, and those in charge are held accountable for their actions. Good governance also means the institution focuses on the needs of its stakeholders – in this case, you and other students.

So why does it matter to you? Good governance makes sure your university delivers the high academic standards and quality of education you deserve. This means better facilities, programmes and support that directly improve your educational journey.

How do we measure it? QS Stars uses the following criteria to assess good governance.

Transparent financial reporting and solvency

Financial transparency means everyone involved with the university (students, staff, donors) can trust that the institution is managing its funds responsibly. Detailed financial reporting helps university leadership make informed decisions about how to align and allocate resources to different programmes, facilities and services, all in line with the university's objectives and mission.

Points will be awarded if the institution publishes its annual financial report on the website and has an independent audit/control body certify it as compliant.  

Ethics committee (not research related)

The ethics committee plays a vital role in making sure an institution upholds high ethical standards across all its operations. It offers guidance when faced tough ethical decisions and helps ensure that the university leadership makes choices that are fair and well-informed.

Points will be awarded for institutions with the following:

  1. An ethics committee that has a regular meeting schedule
  2. An annual report of the ethics committee published on the university website
  3. Information about submitting claims and complaints is public and accessible via a website link
  4. An ethics committee that has met once a month for the past one year

Representation in the university governing structures

Including people from all genders and areas of the university in leadership roles brings together a variety of viewpoints, leading to better decision-making. Diverse voices in policies and projects also boosts engagement, making them easier to put into action. We award points for institutions where:

  1. Students are represented in the university governing body
  2. The proportion of female leadership staff exceeds 35%
  3. The institution publishes a gender pay gap report

Policies and provisions for sustainability and integrity

Institutions need to consider both sustainability and integrity for long-term success.

Sustainability policies guide environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically sound practices. Integrity provisions establish clear ethical principles for decision-making, emphasising honesty, accountability, and fairness.

Points will be awarded to institutions where the following policies are publicly available:

  1. Research independence or academic freedom policy
  2. Anti-bribery or corruption policy
  3. Sustainable procurement or purchasing policy
  4. Sustainable investment policy  
  5. Sustainability policy on donations and funding
  6. Modern slavery policy
  7. Student safety policy
  8. Diversity & Inclusion policy

Staff satisfaction

When staff members feel valued and satisfied, they’re more driven and efficient, contributing positively to the university's performance. A happy workforce also stays longer, preserving valuable knowledge within the institution.

Data is collected using the QS Satisfaction survey and institutions are awarded points if 75% of their staff are satisfied. 

Institutional accreditation (quality assurance)

Accreditation is a mark of credibility. It signals that the institution meets high quality standards set by independent organisations, ensuring a strong academic environment.

Points are awarded towards institutions that have at least one institutional accreditation by a national or regional quality assurance agency.

Publication of governance meeting minutes

Open access to governance meeting minutes helps understand where an institution is heading and how and why they make decisions. Publishing these records shows their commitment to transparency, meaning they’re open and upfront with their plans. This builds trust between the university and students like you. Points are awarded towards institutions who have published at least one governance meeting minutes in the last 12 months.

Strategy and risk management

A clear direction is crucial for any institution’s success. This comes from having a solid strategy that outlines its goals and guides its choices, including resource allocation. Part of that strategy also involves risk management. By identifying challenges before the arise they can proactively mitigate them before they become problems.

We award points to institutions with a strategic and risk management plan.

Choosing a university is a big decision. You want your university to be truly invested in your success as well as its own. Don’t settle for anything less. Look for institutions that prioritise transparency, fairness, and ethical practices – all qualities reflected in good governance. This ensures a stable environment where you can focus on achieving your potential and building a bright future.

To help you find which universities have good governance, try QS Stars.

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. 

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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