A Comparison of Times and QS University Ranking Systems
The education sector has become extremely competitive—the number of universities is constantly on the rise, with every university enhancing the quality of education to attract top minds. As such, students often face challenges on how to select a university that best suits their interests. Students are unsure of the factors they need to consider when shortlisting universities. Also, they get overwhelmed by the amount of information present online and are unsure of the credibility of the sources.
As such, there is a huge demand for university ranking systems that help students shortlist universities for which they meet the admission criteria.
Two agencies that have been successful in addressing the aforementioned needs of students worldwide are Times Higher Education, also known as Times, and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). While there are some similarities in the performance indicators employed by the Times and QS university ranking systems, there are quite a number of differences too. Students should take note of this if they refer to these rankings as a guide.
Before comparing the two, it is important to understand the components of each ranking system.
Evaluation of Universities – Times
In the Times World University ranking system, universities are evaluated on the following factors (made up of 13 performance indicators):
- The learning environment, where the focus is on staff to student ratio, the ratio of doctoral to bachelor’s degrees, and reputation of the university based on results of invited-only questionnaires
- Volume and quality of research, where the focus is on university research income and the number of research papers published by each academician
- Research influence in other sectors through citations in publications
- Income generated in the relevant industries through innovative practices put forth by the universities
- The international outlook based on the demographics of staff and students.
Times Higher Education recalibrates this methodology when looking at various fields of study. Currently, there are 11 World University Rankings by Subject. They are for 1) Arts and Humanities, 2) Life Sciences, 3) Physical Sciences, 4) Engineering and Technology, 5) Social Sciences, 6) Computer Science, 7) Business and Economics, 8) Education, 9) Law, 10) Psychology, and lastly 11) Clinical, pre-clinical, and health.
(For the interested, Times also has a new ranking that examines universities’ impact on society. It is based on an institution’s success in delivering the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.)
Evaluation of Universities – QS
The QS university ranking system is slightly different from the Times ranking system because in the former, different sets of indicators, with different weightings, are used for evaluating all the universities in the world, universities in Asia, and those in other regions. In the QS world universities ranking, academic reputation stands at 40%, where people’s views, especially those of academicians are collected through invitation-only questionnaires, employer reputation stands at 10%, faculty-student ratio accounts for 20%, the number of citations per faculty stands at 20% and the number of international faculty and international students in a university accounts for 5% each.
On the other hand, in the QS Asian universities’ ranking, academic reputation and employer reputation account for 30% and 10% respectively, faculty-student ratio stands at 20%, citations per paper and papers per faculty stand at 10% and 5%, and the weighting of the number of international faculty and international students is 2.5% each. It also looks at student exchanges and the amount of staff holding a PhD.
As circumstances vary, the criteria for different regions also vary: for example, web impact is a metric for the Latin America region, the Emerging Europe and Central Asia region, as well as the Arab region at 5%. According to QS, this “reflects the extent of each institution’s online presence, one aspect of their commitment to international engagement and communication”.
Major Differences Between Times and QS Ranking Systems
In the Times ranking system, the weighting is differentiated based on the fields of study whereas in the QS ranking system, the weighting is differentiated based on the location of the universities, where the criteria for Asian universities is different from universities in the other regions.
The QS ranking system reaches out to international students, which is why the comparison is based on regions. On the other hand, the Times ranking system is not just used by students but also governments to shape their policies. (Currently, Times Higher Education has rankings specifically for US colleges and Japanese Universities)
Another difference between the two systems is that the ratings of QS are driven by reputation, where 40% of a university’s score is derived from surveys. Also, QS opts for quantity for reliability. As such, apart from sending invitation-only questionnaires, QS focuses on mass mailing to academicians too to avoid data from becoming skewed and biased. On the other hand, Times simply sends invitation-only questionnaires, and it does not view the results of this research method as being biased or skewed.
Which System is More Accurate in Gauging the Standard of Universities in Singapore?
The ratings of universities in Singapore are different in QS and Times ranking systems. For example, as per the QS world ranking system for 2020, National University of Singapore (NUS) was ranked 11th, with an overall score of 91.8, whereas as per the Times ranking system, NUS ranked 25th, with a score of 81.9. Meanwhile, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also ranks 11th in the QS rankings; in the Times ranking system, its rank has fallen to 48, with a score of 72.9. Since the evaluation criteria are different for both Times and QS, it is inaccurate to compare the scores of a university across the ranking systems. However, we can compare the ranks across the two ranking systems.
And since the QS ranking system provides ratings of universities, specifically in Asia, students will be able to gauge the quality of a university in Singapore based on criteria that are relevant to Asian universities, which is more accurate than the Times ranking system. As per the latest QS Asian universities’ ranking, NUS holds the crown. NTU comes in second.
The Times ranking system is more accurate for countries in which there are numerous universities, where certain universities are known for specific faculties and fields of study. In Singapore, there are only six local universities. And their specialisations are pretty evident. For example, Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) are better known for management courses. NUS and NTU offer courses ranging from arts to engineering. So, since there is not much diversification between each university, the Times ranking system may not be as accurate in the comparison of the standard of universities in Singapore as the QS ranking system. So, for gauging the standard of universities in Singapore, the QS ranking system may be a better choice.
At the end of it all, however, do remember that rankings provide you with an overview and not the entire picture of the undergraduate/postgraduate experience. It will not tell you if the professor teaching a module you’re interested in can teach well, or tell you if the facilities on campus are well-maintained. So do your own research: go down to the school on a school day and walk around, go to open houses to speak to students and staff, ask alumni about their opinions. You’ll be able to make a more informed decision after!
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