Rating universities on social impact: QS Stars | Top Universities
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Rating universities on social impact: QS Stars

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Craig OCallaghan

Updated May 14, 2024
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QS Stars: Social responsibility

Want to make the world a better place? Join a university that aligns with your values. 

Universities are part of a larger community. By giving back to local causes, dedicating time and resources to improving society, and encouraging you to get involved too – everyone wins. 

QS Stars goes beyond traditional rankings to evaluate universities based on their real-world social impact. This category dives into how universities foster positive change, and the benefits it has for you, your studies, and wider society. 

So what exactly does the Social impact category look at? Here’s a breakdown of the key areas: 

Social impact research 

Carrying out research that has a direct positive impact on society can significantly improve an institution’s reputation. It can attract funding from government bodies, non-profits, and other organisations that also prioritise societal advancement. 

Points will be awarded towards institutions based on the sustainable development goals (SDG) research indicators contained in the Social impact category of the QS World University Rankings. 

Funds for community investment and charity work OR volunteer hours for community investment and charity work 

Funds for community investment and charity work 

Putting money into the community shows that a university is willing to step up and do good in the real world. This kind of spending goes straight to projects and charities that help people and the planet. 

Points will be awarded to institutions that contribute either 1% of their turnover or $2 million USD to community projects or charities. This includes funds donated by the institution, as well as money donated and raised by students and faculty. 

Volunteer hours for community investment and charity work 

Help your community, grow your network and discover causes you care about, all while developing professional skills like communication, problem-solving and leadership. By dedicating time to volunteering, universities are able to give back to their local communities as well as encouraging their students to grow. 

Points will be awarded to institutions based on the number of volunteer hours contributed for each faculty and student in a 12-month period. 

Students from the university’s local region OR graduates employed in the local region  

Students from the university’s local region (e.g. province, state) 

Local students often have established connections within the community. This fosters a vibrant exchange of ideas and strengthens the university’s ties to the area, and can translate into community-based projects and partnerships.  

Points will be awarded to institutions with at least 30% to 50% of their student population originating from the university's local region (‘region’ refers to governmental administrative divisions or traditional regions within each country). 

Graduates employed in the local region (e.g. province, state) 

When graduates find success in the local job market, it shows two things. First, it proves what you learn is relevant and valuable to real-world employers. Second, it strengthens the institution’s links with the community, creating opportunities for collaboration and future internships or jobs for you, paving the way for your success. 

Points will be awarded to institutions with at least 30% to 50% of their graduates employed in the university’s local region. 

Scholarship funds OR Students on 50% scholarship 

Scholarship funds 

Scholarships help deserving students from all walks of life achieve their academic goals. They contribute to a vibrant, talented community, where diverse backgrounds and perspectives come together.  

Points will be awarded to institutions that allocate 2% of their turnover to scholarships, grants, and bursaries. 

Students on 50% scholarship 

A great education shouldn’t be limited by your financial situation. Generous scholarships of this magnitude make higher education accessible for an even broader range of students, including those from less privileged backgrounds.  Points will be awarded to institutions where at least 1% of their students receive scholarships that cover a minimum of 50% of their tuition fees. 

For the next indicator below, institutions may choose between the following two options: 

Low-income students OR Low-income funds 

Low-income students 

Opening the doors to education for students from low-income backgrounds doesn't just change individual lives — it can boost entire communities. Institutions with a strong track record of supporting low-income students ensure everyone has a chance to learn, grow, and succeed. 

We’ll award points to institutions with 5% to 15% of their student population identified as low-income. 

Low-income funds 

Programmes that help low-income students overcome financial barriers to achieve their full potential, no matter their bank balance.Points will be allocated to institutions that either invest 1% of their turnover or contribute $2 million USD towards the recruitment and support of low-income students. 

Alternative entry pathways 

Everyone’s university journey is different. Alternative entry pathways are for those who don't fit the typical applicant mould — like those returning to education later in life, people with hands-on work experience, or anyone coming from a unique schooling path. These routes help create a campus buzzing with different stories and insights. 

Points will be awarded to institutions with policies in place for admitting non-traditional students. 

Looking for a place to learn, grow, and contribute to a greater good? Find a university that champions societal progress as much as your success. QS Stars helps you see exactly where an institution’s strengths lie, rating them not just on their studies, but on their real-world impact too. Find your university match and start making a difference today.