University Rankings and their Role in the Academic Outlook

The academic environment is becoming one of the most competitive markets. Due to the high supply of educational institutions around the world, it is increasingly difficult for international students to choose the best place to study where they can realize their dreams.

Currently, university rankings are a phenomenon that measures the reputation of the universities and higher education institutions and directly influence the perception of their academic standing in front of thousands of potential students from around the world. However, it is crucially important that transnational students understand the background of a list that ranks world-class universities among the top.

The main rankings of academic classifications are developed by institutions such as Times Higher Education University RankingsAcademic Ranking of World Universities and QS World University Rankings and have given rise to debate for almost 15 years inside the universal academic environment.

In addition, they are understood as an essential part of the education environment, due to the fact they carry out a general analysis of the market and provide information both to students and to the universities.

Usually, this kind of academic rankings are based broadly on the following indicators:

·         Education (30%) – The learning environment is measured by surveys of academic reputation, made to a high proportion of doctoral and postgraduate students, and institutional incomes. These rankings seek the universities with the highest level of education supply.

·         Research (30%) – Volume, income and reputation in terms of excellence of academic research, it is one of the most prominent indicators and it’s evaluated through reputation surveys, research incomes and research productivity. However, it’s understood as a controversial indicator because according to THE it can be influenced by national policy and economic circumstances specific to each country.

·         Citations per faculty (30%) – As incredible as it may seem, academic citations are measured through platforms such as Scopus. In this way, they can determine the role in the dissemination of new knowledge and their influence in other researches or academic articles.

·         International perspective (10%) – The ability of a university to recruit both international teachers and students, is fundamental within the academic environment since an international perspective can position a higher education institution as a strong global brand.

*The indicators and percentages may change depending on the ranking you choose to analyse.

In fact, once the world university rankings are published, some people tend to give them a superficial reading. Many times, they can get carried away by the hierarchy of some institutes, that according to the criterion of the rankings they deserve to be part of the list and are the best alternative for millions of students around the world.

However, considering the indicators and standards on which these institutions were classified, we should go a little bit deeper into the information that those rankings provide us. Here you will find some aspects to consider:

University institutions, a world of possibilities to explore

Understanding the complexity of university institutions based on the standardization of some indicator is an almost impossible aspect. Educational institutes across the world develop a unique and incomparable style of doctrine. Even if some universities may resemble each other, it is utopian to think that they are exactly the same. Each university set its own mission, vision and crucial guidelines for its operations.

For instance, two qualified universities may offer an excellent Business Administration program. Although both programs are useful for your academic training, there will be only one that offers you exactly what you need. In this case, you should focus on the exhaustive analysis of the curriculum of each of the programs and choose the one that best fits with your needs.

Therefore, the rankings should be based on the intention to analyse the most important aspects of educational institutions, without neglecting those elements that make up the own essence of an institution. So, we can deduce that, although some institutions enjoy a good reputation, each university has its own style and particular academic content.

Rankings based on prestige

A large part of the university rankings such as THE and QS base their analysis and research about worldwide universities on the prestige they may have through surveys of different actors involved in the academic communities. So, technically, the classification of those “top” universities depend on a large extent of subjective opinions and perceptions of some academics.

This can be understood as a really interesting phenomenon, in which the opinion of some academics belonging to mainly Anglo-Saxon educational institutions is taken. Generating a bias for universities of high academic level located in South and Central America, Europe, Africa or Asia, which constitute around 90% on the world population.

Academic research: exclusion or selection?

As we already mentioned, two of the main indicators of these academic rankings are focused on the research habits of the universities. These rankings measure the number of publications in academic articles or research that universities have indexed, mainly in an English-speaking context. In other words, in most of the cases, those universities that publish their research specifically in English, in academic journals linked to a worldwide query database are taken into account.

Consequently, an uncertainty arises for universities that have a high level of participation in research but decide to release their publications in another language. So these institutions could be at a major disadvantage against others when it comes to being classified in any world university rankings.

Teaching indicators

It’s remarkable how these university classification systems directly rule out any type of teaching indicator, while they instead consider the number of academic publications of educators, and highlight the institutions with academics who have any kind of reward or recognition such as Nobel Prize Winners. The rankings do not analyse in-depth and detail some educational components that comprise the universities.

The world university rankings are guided by techniques of quantitative measurement but not qualitative, so it is complicated for the authors of those rankings to consider the work of areas such as social or human sciences, which contribute to the development of their theories through books and to a large extent the production of incalculable knowledge. Consequently, we can notice how those classifications neglect the essence of academic institutions in terms of quality on the generation of content and their educational functions.

Despite these facts, it is necessary to add the importance of educational rankings and their influence on the international academic environment. Undoubtedly they are an essential tool that serves as a reference for academic institutions to being part of a highly competitive global market. In addition, those classifications are necessary for elite universities to continue with their social commitment to the production of knowledge in different academic areas.

Educational institutions, your home abroad

At the time to choose your study destination, or more specifically an educational institution, we recommend you analyse different determining factors during your selection process. Even if you can stay informed about some of the most prestigious and competitive universities reading the rankings of academic classification, it is important that you research deeper to find the college or university of your dreams.

It is essential that as a transnational student, you are open-minded when considering universities or academic institutions to reach your educational goals. Start by looking for institutions that offer the study program of your interest, it’s the best choice for having a clear idea about the possibilities you have at the start of this path.

You should make an extensive comparison between multiple programs to identify which of them will provide you with the greatest benefits and will suit your expectations and needs. It is important to keep in mind that each institution is unique and different, therefore at the end of your search, you should stay with the one you most identify with.

Find out in what way your possible academic institution may contribute to your personal and professional development. While there exists a myriad of institutional options for you to progress in the achievement of your educational goals, you must find the reasons why a college or university are the best alternatives for you. For example, the duration of the course or program you choose will undoubtedly have to suit to your expectations, the economic investment that you will have to make must correspond to your budget, the extracurricular activities that the institution offers should match to your personality, as well as these, there exists a lot of other fundamental aspects you should consider when starting a learning process.

In addition to looking for a study destination, it is important that you consider the political, social and economic context of the country in which your future university is located. Being well informed is fundamental to taking a good decision when opting for a specific educative institute and even more significant, a country in which you will carry out your studies.

If you are passionate about GermanIrish or Hungarian culture, do not hesitate to consider all the possible options, it doesn’t matter if any of the institutions you are contemplating are not classified in any of the most popular rankings, just make sure you choose the institution that best suits your student profile, as well as your needs and expectations. Once again, we remind you that a list doesn’t make an institution better or worse, especially one that will change your life completely and will transform your way of thinking.

In the same way, you can analyse the significant elements that may benefit you in a post-educative situation in a country abroad. For instance, the possibility to learn a second or third language will probably open many doors in the labour market. Testing your skills during an internship abroad can give you a unique value to the work experience of your professional curriculum, or why not consider the possibility of continuing with your educative goals in the same country.

Studying abroad may be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have in life, it’s a long and complex process full of obstacles that undoubtedly will give you benefits at some point of your professional life. You will also face situations that contribute to your life in different social, academic and cultural aspects.

Do not be afraid to explore the world beyond your window, city and even your country, you will find a myriad of unforgettable moments, places and experiences, you will meet people with totally different cultures and will broaden your outlook by adopting an international vision.


Why are you waiting to find the college or university of your dreams?