Times Higher Education: Rating the Rankings
October 04, 2021
Each fall, a variety of publications release their lists of the best schools, the most ubiquitous of which comes from U.S. News & World Report. So why is Harvard University #1 according to U.S. News, while Forbes thinks it's Williams College and Washington Monthly claims U.C. San Diego is the best in the land?
School size and type aside, publications use different measures of quality when assigning rankings. Furthermore, while 2 publications may use the same measure (for example, retention rates) but value them in different ways (e.g. 15% at U.S. News but 6% at Forbes) when assigning ratings.
The most common measures used for school rankings in 2011 were test scores, retention/graduation rates and the student/faculty ratio. And the similarities pretty much end there. Publications use all kinds of measures and many of them don't overlap. So who does what? We decided to take a look behind the rankings....
Today School Rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings
Who It's For: Students concerned with a school's research output and innovation or interested in international education
What They Look At:
A worldwide reputational survey on teaching and research quality
The institution's research income from industry
The ratio of PhDs to Bachelor's degrees granted
Institutional income as scaled by the number of faculty
The frequency with which its research is cited by academics
Research volume, income and reputation
Times Higher Education rankings take into account the ability of students mix those from different cultures and at varying degree levels, a factor that most other publications don't examine. They examine the quality and volume of an institution's research and academic contributions more comprehensively than almost any other publication.
The cornerstone of THS' rankings lie in the Thomson Reuters Academic Reputation Survey. Over-reliance on peer assessment and reputational surveys can lead to a circular ranking system in which the rankings reinforce a school's reputation which then keeps certain establishments at the top of the list year after year.
Their Top 5 Universities:
California Institute of Technology
Choosing a college is about much more than rankings. Find out which schools are a good match for you with our College Wizard!