Do You look at University Rankings While Planning for Overseas Education?


Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Aug 08, 2023 10:13 AM IST

The most well-known university rankings agencies release their annual list of the best universities in the world each year. These lists of esteemed rankings accelerate hypes, whether they are global university rankings like THE or QS. Surely, the ranking system has its place reserved in higher education, but it also has its own limitations.

Do You look at University Rankings While Planning for Overseas Education?

The reputation of a higher education institution depends on the rankings released by renowned publications and organisations that compare universities based on several parameters. Now the question is do university rankings matter when choosing a university? Is it imperative for the students to decide on a college based on rankings? Whether university rankings or subject rankings should get prominence? While several such questions arise, it is a highly debatable topic among students, educators and policymakers if such rankings truly matter. 

Some of the key metrics that decide university rankings are academic quality, student satisfaction, post-graduation outcomes, faculty ratio, financial resources research outputs, graduation rates, etc play a crucial role. To judge a holistic and inclusive environment some ranking institutions consider student diversity, student engagement and community impact. 

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a survey and found out that the students listed some important factors on which they want the university rankings to be based. They pointed out the following factors:

1. Percentage rate of employment after completing a certain course. 

2. Admissions potential in top universities/colleges after completing their course. 

3. Cost of attendance in the university/college. 

4. Area of the university/college. 

5. The status of the student body and faculty.

6. Other relevant details about the campus.

Students must be cautious while using ranks as parameters to determine the suitability of the course or the university. Often the weight attached to each factor may not align with their goals and needs and in such cases, they must exercise caution. The information provided by ranks should be considered but also they are not “perfect.” Hence, it is important to compare university choices based on other factors. In this article, we will walk you through the pros and cons of using university rankings while determining the college to study. 

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How are University Rankings Determined?

Different rankings published by different organisations are based on different criteria set by them. Some organisations' rankings are based on the basis of their courses, while other agencies consider factors like university facility, student performance, employment rate and so on. 

Types of University Rankings

In the current scenario of the criteria that are generally followed by the organisations, the university rankings can be categorised into two types:

  • College-based: This type of ranking takes into account many aspects of the university including its faculty, facility, buildings, student community, employment rate, graduation rate and so on as a whole. 

  • Course-based: This type of ranking is generally based on the course level, faculty of that course, the employment rate in that particular course and so on. This ranking is limited to a particular course only. 

University Rankings Criteria

There are different criteria set that determine the university/college ranking for many organisations. These may include both the college-based and course-based university rankings. The following are some of those factors/criteria that are acknowledged by numerous university ranking organisations based on their evaluating standards:

  • Faculty of the university: The first and foremost factor that is taken into account by many organisations while determining university rankings is their faculty. This criterion has the potential to determine the goodwill of the institution. Whether the faculty is able to satisfy the academic needs of a student, the student-faculty ratio is sufficient or not, whether the faculty is well trained and experienced or not, etc. All these factors are given a great amount of importance while assessing any institution’s rankings. 

  • Student Selectivity: An educational institute's hierarchy can be determined by the selectivity of students and their acceptance divided by the total number of applicants. The acceptance rate of students also plays a vital role in determining the university's ranking. 

  • Economic Strength: Whether the institute or the country is economically stronger or not, is one of the key criteria that is assessed by the many organisations determining university/college ranking. Institutions with substantial budgets—whether they earned them or received the funding from endowments—are typically regarded as higher than universities with smaller budgets. What matters is how this money is being utilised by the institute so that international students can receive a direct benefit from it.

  • Performance of the Alumni: Whether the university is providing the right amount of knowledge and training or not can be determined by observing the employment status of the alumni of that institution. The higher the employment rate of the graduates is, the higher their university/college ranking. The graduation rate of the institution is also taken into consideration while determining the rankings. 

  • Research Work: Publishing good research work and sharing those innovations with the world is one of the key factors that determine the performance of an institution. This criterion establishes the university's excellence in teaching and provides them with many research grants from various public as well as private sectors.

  • International Outreach: Determination of the presence of a university on a global platform can be assessed through its capability of attracting international students as well as hiring international faculties. A university's collaboration with other international universities and its association with many MNCs can be a deciding factor in university ranking for many organisations.

Check out the video to find out how effective college rankings are while selecting universities abroad. Also know the problems of choosing universities on the basis of the same. 

Pros of Relying on University Rankings

There are many students who are really confused regarding their university or programme choices. University rankings can sometimes be a blessing for such students as they could open up copious career prospects for them. The following are some of the benefits of why international students should rely on university rankings set by reputed organisations:

  • Broad Overview: For students wanting to study in a well-known and reputed college, relying on university ranking works well for them. It makes their selection process easier and seems like a happy outcome. University rankings can summarise the popularity and reputation of a university, in a nutshell, hence the students do not need to go through the whole research process before making their decision. 

  • Easy Assessment: Some students get assured of a university's excellence which gets featured at the top of various top ranking lists. They assess the quality of the education, student-teacher ratio, and research-oriented approach based on their rankings in the list published by the organisations which take these factors under consideration. This makes the evaluation of the university really easy for the students. 

Cons of Relying on University Rankings

There are many incidents in which university rankings are not able to determine the true strength of a university. Many times there are hidden gems present in a low-ranking university/college, which can never be found by solely relying on the university's rankings. The following may be the drawbacks of relying on university’s rankings:

  • All that glitters is not gold: The university's rankings are generally based on a set of parameters. They may be able to cater to a large section of the student community but it is not necessary to cater to every student's need as these rankings may lack diversity. 

  • Not all can have the same priorities: Not all students out there go for reputation and university ranking. Some courses in some universities are way better than the same course offered in a higher-ranked university. So students need to set their priorities and select their university not on the basis of ranking but on their requirements. 

Based on the above article it is safe to say that the university rankings matters amongst the student community. They should take the university's ranking into consideration while selecting their university for higher studies. However, these rankings should not be the sole criteria taken into account, students must do thorough research on the academic excellence of the course they want to study in various universities before making their decision. University ranking only determines the overall performance of the university, which may or may not be a good fit for the student.

How do I Choose Between University Rankings and Subject Rankings?

Choosing between University rankings and Subject rankings is a difficult task. While both information is crucial, the rankings focus on the different aspects of the performance of the university. A balanced perspective is provided using both the university and subject rankings. Here are some guidelines to help you to choose between university rankings and subject rankings: 

  • University Prestige vs. Subject Reputation: The institute as a whole is comprehensively evaluated, considering factors such as research output, quality of faculty, student success and global footing. If students give preference to the prestige of the university and give value to its strengths, then university rankings are more appropriate. 

  • Course Choice: For those who are clear on what subject or field they want to study, subject rankings can help them set appropriate goals. In such cases, students can be assessed based on their expertise and performance in disciplines of their choice.

  • Career Milestones: Students who already have fixed their career goals know how each type of ranking parameter focuses on them. Those who wish to build a career in academia can choose research output and faculty quality as determining factors. Students who are targeting to join a specific industry can look for universities with industry connections. 

  • Individual Preferences: Students must understand their preferences regarding location, campus culture, class sizes, student diversity, extracurricular activities and other non-academic aspects. Rankings assess universities objectively, but they may fail to capture the subjective aspects of university life, which also help a student thrive.

The higher education sector heavily depends on college rankings as a metric to evaluate and compare universities. However, it must be remembered that the individual needs of students and their preferences play a greater role in deciding the university. Though rankings offer valuable insights into the academics of institutions, they are just one pillar of determining the quality of the university. By holistically evaluating universities, students can maximise their college success.

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Do university rankings always matter?

No, it cannot be said that university rankings do always matter. It can be justified by the statement that ‘everything that glitters is not gold’, this is because university rankings are based on various different factors. Many institutions in rankings have scores that are remarkably comparable and barely differ. As a result, their standing may not significantly change over time.

What are the best university ranking systems?

There are many best university ranking systems around the world that release their rankings for top universities in the world every year. There are several available world university rankings, the most well-known of which are the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the QS World University Rankings. It must be noted that each one employs a variety of data collection techniques for university rankings.

Does university ranking matter for Phd?

It can be said that the university ranking does not matter for PhD. This is because, while earning a PhD degree, the most crucial factors are that you are enthusiastic about the topic of your research and feel at ease with your supervisor and the kind of guidance they will provide. Remember that even a university with a poor rankings may have a stellar reputation in a specialised field of study.

Do university rankings matter to employers?

Yes, it can be said that university rankings do matter to employers. Employers who do not have particular degree requirements specifically target universities with the best overall rankings and those that have historically produced the most qualified candidates. However, if you are not sure which university or field you want to pursue, taking a look at overall university rankings can be a good help. 

Why are university rankings considered so important?

There are so many reasons behind why university rankings are considered so important. One of the most important reasons is that university rankings support organisations with worldwide talent recruitment, strategic alliance formation, and brand visibility building on a global scale. This increases the visibility of the university, competition, and increases the acceptance rate of potential students. 

Does university ranking matter for jobs?

It can be said that university ranking does matter for jobs but up to a certain extent. This is because the individual, including their attitude, accomplishments, and demonstrated knowledge and skills, is by far the most important aspect taken into account by most firms when hiring new employees. Unless the required job is degree-specific, university rankings have lesser significance.

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