What to consider when comparing universities online | Top Universities

What to consider when comparing universities online

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Chloe Lane

Updated Aug 25, 2023



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From online lectures and seminars to online exams, and in some cases, even online graduations; most aspects of university life are making the switch to online in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Fortunately, technology is here to help us do just that; but how can you decide which university to attend if you can no longer attend open days?

Usually, when choosing where to study, technology acts only as a supplement to visiting the university, but sometimes you have to make the decision of which university to attend without physically visiting them.

Here are several factors to consider when comparing universities:

  • Course content – Look at how the course is structured, the different pathways you can take, how much freedom you get in choosing modules, etc.
  • Location – Consider the transport links, where in the world it is, employability prospects (if you’re intending to stay in the town/city after graduation) and the cost of living in that area.
  • Academic reputation– Find out what the university’s reputation is like: what are the admission requirements? Is a degree from this university respected as highly as a degree from another university?
  • Graduate employability – does the university have a high level of employment amongst its graduates? Are there links with businesses?
  • Studying Abroad abroad – If studying abroad is important to you, how much support does the university offer with this, can you study abroad on international exchanges?
  • Affordability – Compare the cost of tuition, accommodation, cost of living in the area surrounding the university.
  • Student satisfaction – Get the opinions of students who have already attended the university – what do they have to say about student life?
  • Student life – What events are going on around campus? What is the student union like? Are there any societies that you’d like to join?
Student comparing universities online

Use university rankings

QS offers a variety of university rankings to help you find your university of choice and prides itself on the transparency of its methodology, and the number of universities included in each ranking grows year on year.

The QS rankings can be used to compare a variety of factors from location, academic reputation and employer reputation to graduate employability and student satisfaction. The rankings are a great way to compare universities against different metrics.

If you’re looking to study at an undergraduate level or looking to study for your masters, we recommend you take a look at the following rankings:

Although we don’t know how long we will be stuck in quarantine, we do know it won’t be forever, so it’s important to choose a university in a location that suits you. This factor may be more important to some people than others.

If the location is an important factor to you when choosing a university, make sure you research it well. Find out what’s going on in that area and what living there is like for students.

Rankings can help give you a bit more information about student life in each location, and are especially useful if you’re considering studying abroad but are unsure where to go:

  • QS University Rankings by Region – Highlights the best universities in particular regions of the world
  • QS Best Student Cities – If you’re interested in studying abroad, this ranking shows you which cities are popular with students, as well as having good graduate prospects.

Try our course matching tool

Answer a few questions about your preferred study destination(s), chosen degree subject, previous academic record, level of funding required, and ideal start date and our course matching tool can help identify the right university for you. We'll compare your requirements with our database including thousands of top universities from around the world, to suggest specific degree programmes which you're eligible for and which meet your study requirements.

Once you've completed the matching tool, you can save your shortlist of universities and - in some cases - contact the university directly to start your application or get more information.

Scour the university’s website

University websites are packed full of detailed information about the courses on offer, student life, accommodation and prices.

Some even give you online tours, giving you the opportunity to go on a virtual open day and get a real feel for the university.

Take a look at the online learning resources on offer in the university, as accessing resources online is undoubtedly a growing part of the future, and will play an integral part in your university experience.

You can also find out about the university's careers services – what does the university offer students to help them find work experience and work after graduation and what resources are available for both students and alumni?

Ask questions on social media

Take a look at the university’s social media pages. Often, they will post pictures and information about events happening in the university.

You will usually be able to contact the university directly with any questions you might have – Twitter is especially useful for this.

Sign up for a QS event

QS offers a range of events for those looking to talk directly to university representatives to find out more about specific courses on offer. These events are a great way to get your questions answered and to make invaluable connections who will be able to advice and help you in your application process. 

Check our calendar of upcoming events.

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