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QS World University Rankings® 2020


The QS World University Rankings continue to enjoy a remarkably consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that we believe effectively capture university performance. Since faculty area normalisation was introduced in 2015 to ensure that institutions specialising in Life Sciences and Natural Sciences were not unduly advantaged, we have avoided fundamental changes. In doing so, we aim to ensure that year-on-year comparisons remain valid, and that unnecessary volatility is minimised.

Thus, universities continue to be evaluated according to the following six metrics:

  1. Academic Reputation
  2. Employer Reputation
  3. Faculty/Student Ratio
  4. Citations per faculty
  5. International Faculty Ratio
  6. International Student Ratio

Academic reputation (40%)

The highest weighting of any metric is allotted to an institution’s Academic Reputation score. Based on our Academic Survey, it collates the expert opinions of over 94,000 individuals in the higher education space regarding teaching and research quality at the world’s universities. In doing so, it has grown to become the world’s largest survey of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community.

Employer reputation (10%)

Students will continue to perceive a university education as a means by which they can receive valuable preparation for the employment market. It follows that assessing how successful institutions are at providing that preparation is essential for a ranking whose primary audience is the global student community.

Our Employer Reputation metric is based on almost 45,000 responses to our QS Employer Survey, and asks employers to identify those institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative, effective graduates. The QS Employer Survey is also the world’s largest of its kind.

Faculty/Student Ratio (20%)

Teaching quality is typically cited by students as the metric of highest importance to them when comparing institutions using a ranking. It is notoriously difficult to measure, but we have determined that measuring teacher/student ratios is the most effective proxy metric for teaching quality. It assesses the extent to which institutions are able to provide students with meaningful access to lecturers and tutors, and recognizes that a high number of faculty members per student will reduce the teaching burden on each individual academic.

Faculty/student Ratio constitutes 20 percent of an institution’s final score.

Citations per faculty (20%)

Teaching is one key pillar of an institution’s mission. Another is research output. We measure institutional research quality using our Citations per Faculty metric. To calculate it, we the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.

To account for the fact that different fields have very different publishing cultures – papers concerning the Life Sciences are responsible nearly half of all research citations as of 2015 – we normalize citations. This means that a citation received for a paper in Philosophy is measured differently to one received for a paper on Anatomy and Physiology, ensuring that, in evaluating an institution’s true research impact, both citations are given equal weight.


We use a five-year publication window for papers, so for this edition we looked at papers published from 2013 to 2017. We then take a look at a six-year citation window; reflecting the fact that it takes time for research to be effectively disseminated. In this edition we look for citations from 2013-2018.

All citations data is sourced using Elsevier’s Scopus database, the world’s largest repository of academic journal data. This year, QS assessed 74 million citations from 13.5 million papers once self-citations were excluded.

International faculty ratio/International student ratio (5% each)

A highly international university acquires and confers a number of advantages. It demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, which in turn suggests that it possesses a strong international brand. It implies a highly global outlook: essentially for institutions operating in an internationalised higher education sector. It also provides both students and staff alike with a multinational environment, facilitating exchange of best practices and beliefs. In doing so, it provides students with international sympathies and global awareness: soft skills increasingly valuable to employers. Both of these metrics are worth 5% of the overall total.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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Thank you Sabrina, I shall do that, but this induces me to question the validity of your rankings...

Although the University of Tripoli, which is located in Libya is one of the largest and oldest Arab and African universities, it did not come in your ranking.
I wish clarification

Hi Klaled, there are thousands of universities around the world, and unfortunately it's not possible to rank every one of them. It may be that the University of Tripoli is not eligible for our rankings due to possibly being too specialized or not producing enough cited researh (to be eligible for inclusion, universities must conduct work in at least two of five possible faculty areas). Hope this helps to clarify.

The explanation above for faculty/student ratio says that the measure recognises that low faculty/student ratio will reduce the teaching burden on an individual academic. Surely the other way around, no? A lower student/faculty ratio would reduce the burden on the academic but not the other way around. So is a high score in this measure good, or is a low score good?

Hi Richard, apologies - there was a mistake in the text, which has now been corrected. To confirm, this indicator recognizes that a high number of faculty members per student will reduce the teaching burden on each individual academic, and a higher score is better - the greater the number of faculty members per student, the better. Hope this helps to clarify.

Hey hi! How do you differentiate between UG and PG programs? Let's say University X has ranking #10; so that takes into account both UG and PG, right? Maybe the UG is way better than PG at Uni. X and thus the high overall ranking. I cannot really come to a conclusion that PG programs in Uni. X is of #10 capabilities, isn't it? Or can I?

I wonder how the weighting of each indicator is determined. For example, why the weighting of "academic reputation" is 40% instead of 35% or 45%?
Thank you!

Can you tell me, please, the difference between first and second university more than between 100 and 101?

Where can I see absolute values?

Hi Yura, there's very little difference between universities ranked one after the other (such as 100 and 101) - you might like to narrow down the results by one of the indicators above, to get a clearer picture of each university's strengths. :)

So, what exactly is a QS account then?

Hello! Could you clarify what you mean? Is there a particular context or webpage you have in mind which refers to a QS account?

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