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Are University Rankings Still Important?

September 16, 2016

International students choosing where to study have long placed importance on university rankings. Deciding where to go to university is a huge decision, especially if you’re planning on relocating abroad. So it makes sense that international students would take note of university world rankings when making their choice.\r\n\r\nThe rankings of universities, colleges and other higher education institutions are used to identify the best universities in the world. The results can attract students and faculty from far and wide.\r\n\r\nUniversity world ranking systems use a combination of varying factors to decide on the rankings each year. Whilst there are many different ranking systems, the universities that make it into the top 10 each year remain largely unchanged.\r\n

There are five global university ranking systems:

\r\nAcademic Ranking of World Universities\r\nTimes Higher Education World University Rankings\r\nQS World University Rankings\r\nCWTS Leiden Ranking\r\nWebometrics Ranking\r\n\r\n(The UI GreenMetric World University Ranking created and compiled by the University of Indonesia also ranks universities in terms of their environmental sustainability)\r\n

Which ranking system is most accurate?

\r\nWith so many different ranking systems, it’s difficult to pinpoint which one is “the best.” Each system uses a different approach to compile its list.\r\n\r\nFor example, Academic Ranking of World Universities includes criteria such as academic quality, number of Nobel Prizes won by alumni (and faculty whilst working at the institution), and amount of academic research published. This ranking method places a lot of emphasis on the educational aspect of university and whilst this is a great way to judge an institution, it’s quite a narrow perspective.\r\n\r\nOther ranking systems adopt a broader approach and include criteria such as student diversity, scientific research,digital presence, and how the rest of the world perceives them.\r\n\r\nWith that in mind, it’s important for international students to recognise that no ranking system is all encompassing. Each separate system comes with its own limitations and has a different intended audience.\r\n\r\nUniversities can also take shortcuts in improving their global rankings, such as hiring part-time professors with good reputations and standings.\r\n

What other factors should international students take into consideration?

\r\nThere are a number of things you can look at to see which university is right for you.\r\n

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  • Checking out student satisfaction surveys is always a good idea. Knowing how happy the students are that attend the university, specifically students studying your chosen course/subject, can tell you if it will be a good fit or not.
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  • Finding out the quality of a university’s facilities and how advanced its technology is, can be important if you’re looking to study subjects that involve a lot of practical work such as chemistry, medicine or engineering.
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  • Looking at specific courses each university offers can help you make your decision. Not every university offers the same specialism within each subject. Finding the perfect course for you is essential and that might mean picking a university from lower down the ranking list.
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  • From a practical standpoint, the cost of tuition and accommodation is an important factor to consider. These costs vary widely from university to university and from country to country.
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\r\nAnd finally, the majority of people that enter higher education, do so to increase their job prospects later in life. Finding an institution that has good, solid links with employers or at least has a high student employability ranking is essential.\r\n

How much stock should you place in university rankings?

\r\nThe ranking of universities is a practice that shows no signs of stopping, but you should always take into account your personal requirements when examining the lists. You could choose to attend one of the best universities in the world, but it may not provide you with the kind of learning you want, or future job prospects that you’re looking for.\r\n\r\nIt may also perform poorly in your specific subject of interest. An institution in the USA may have the best law department in the world, but if you want to study medicine, it isn’t much use to you.\r\n\r\nSo, if you’re going to look at university world rankings before you make your decision, make sure you look at a cross section and identify which ones address your individual learning needs.\r\n\r\nYou should see university world rankings as just one tool at your disposal when making your decision; rather than something that paints the whole picture.\r\n\r\nFor more information about studying abroad as an international student and which universities you should consider, make sure you get in touch with IEC Abroad today.