10 Reasons Why Rankings Matter in Higher Education

rankingsBy Anna-Malin Sandstrom

University leadership and policy wonks excitedly await the results of yearly university rankings. Part of the excitement is waning, however, due to the same (old) institutions being listed every year. In the EAIE Barometer study, 35% of practitioners indicated that improving international reputation or position in rankings is one of the top three reasons for internationalising. Rankings are used by some governments in their higher education policy, by institutions looking for international partners and by prospective students searching for a place to study – due, often, to the lack of other widespread metrics. But how powerful are rankings in the higher education world?

1. National policy

The study Rankings in institutional strategies and processes (RISP): Impact or illusion? upholds that many governments use rankings to provide funding for selected institutions deemed as capable of becoming world-class, whereas others make use of rankings for classification purposes. In recent years countries as diverse as India, the Russian Federation and the Netherlands have made use of rankings in their partnership schemes, recognition and immigration policies.

2. Institutional decision making

According to the majority of the respondents of the same RISP survey, rankings affect institutional decision making. In it, 27 percent of respondents report that policies have been revised, 26 percent report that focus has shifted to new features of existing procedures, while 23 percent indicate that changes have taken place in the research areas prioritised and 21 percent that the criteria for recruitment and promotion have been affected.

3. Monitoring and benchmarking

The vast majority of RISP survey respondents report that they monitor their institutional performance in rankings and that the senior institutional leadership is involved in this process. Some even have dedicated staff or units for this purpose. Many use rankings not only to monitor their own performance, but also that of their partners and competitors for benchmarking purposes.

4. Data collection

A briefing paper from the Institute of Higher Education Policy states that, in practice, rankings impact discussions about, and collection of, comparative data on both a national and institutional level. Rankings encourage not only the collection but also the publication of education data – according to the Global university rankings and their impact study.

5. Partnering

Most research in the field indicates that rankings impact institutional partnering. This applies particularly to international partnering, as knowledge of (prospective) partner institutions is often not sufficiently available. Having a highly ranked partner can also be used for reputational purposes.

6. Branding

The Trends in Higher Education Marketing, Recruitment, and Technology study shows that university branding requires constant effort and data to support a desired image. A university’s position in rankings serves this purpose well. Ranking outcomes are often mentioned on institutional websites, on social media and institutional presentations in order to increase institutional visibility and credibility.

7. Student choice

The Effects of Rankings on Student Choices and Institutional Selection study outlines how rankings affect the choice of study destination, particularly when studying internationally. Especially as, in such cases, information about institutions and education system in the direct network of prospective students is often limited.

8. Quality of enrolled students

The same study purports that the quality of the students enrolled correlates with how well a university performs in rankings. That is, students with good academic records prefer to enrol at highly ranked institutions perceived as offering better education – or, at the very least, a more impressive diploma.

9. Attracting researchers

Researchers tend to seek to employment at institutions that are perceived as prestigious in their field. Respondents of the RISP survey believed that rankings influence prospective researchers. This was particularly perceived to be the case for internationally-ranked institutions.

10. Research choices

Due the indicators used, rankings reportedly affect research choices in three different ways: the language of publication, with an increased preference for English; publishing on matters of international interest; and prioritising publishing in specific journals.

In sum, rankings influence our view of academia and prestige and therefore affect institutional and personal decision-making – as well as policies and practices. Many argue that this is not due to their merit, but rather due to the lack of other comparative international data on the same scale. The influence rankings have varies, however. It is dependent on the type of higher education institution, the higher education system it is located in, and the availability of other information.

Anna-Malin is Policy Officer at the EAIE

Saudi Arabia Leads the Arab Region in the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers

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highly citedBy Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team

The number of researchers from Saudi Arabia has been consistently ranking in the top 5% of the list of the most highly cited authors.

According to the latest edition of the Highly Cited Researchers List, produced by Clarivate Analytics, Saudi Arabia claimed the 12th position in the world in terms of countries with the most entries in the annual publication with full primary affiliation.

The list features more than 3,539 researchers, in 21 fields, who produced a "notable" number of highly cited papers in Clarivate's Web of Science database over the period 2005-2015.

Authors are selected on the basis of "consistent production" of highly cited papers - defined as those that rank in the top 1 per cent by citations for field and publication year - to allow early career researchers to be considered as much as established names.

King Saud University came in first in the Arab region with 22 entries and was closely followed by King Abdulaziz University with 21 entries.

Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt were each represented by one list entry.
At the global level, researchers from the US continue to be the most represented in the list, with almost half of all the entries being affiliated with organizations, including research institutes and universities, in the US.

In total, the US had more than 1,640 entries, a 7 per cent increase on last year, with the UK second, being responsible for almost 342 entries. However, China is gaining fast: its representation in the list has jumped 36 per cent compared with last year, giving it almost 251 entries.

In terms of institutions, Harvard University claimed the top spot (109 entries), Stanford University (64 entries) came in second, and Germany's Max Planck Society (47) came in third.

As for China, the number of Chinese researchers making a list has gone up by more than a third in just a year. The University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) came in the fourth position with 45 entries on the list. The institution also comes fourth in the world behind Germany's Max Planck Society.

Clarivate says that two "dominant" research themes have emerged in recent editions for this list: cancer genomics and the development of solar power using the mineral perovskite.

The World's 12 Wealthiest Universities

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kaustIn looking for a university to attend, you are probably considering such factors as location, reputation, faculty and majors. But are you considering a school’s wealth

The wealthier the university, the better its facilities are likely to be, and better facilities mean more up-to-date technology and research opportunities. Moreover, richer schools tend to attract a world-class faculty, and usually have more scholarship moneys to distribute, sometimes even waiving tuition costs entirely for students in financial need.

Though a university’s wealth typically comes from donations of money, people and charitable foundations also donate such things as land, buildings, artwork, rare books and documents, and other things of high monetary value. The following Universities are considered the 12 richest in the world.

1. Harvard University – $32.7 Billion

Claiming the number one spot in both wealth and as the best university in the world, Harvard University is flowing with riches thanks to its accumulation of land, art, books, and generous alumnae.  Donors include Bill Gates, the NFL, and a Rockefeller, just to name a few.

2. University of Texas – $25.4 Billion

Splayed throughout Texas in a system of nine schools, the University of Texas can kick its heels up in its high net worth.  Its flagship school sits in Austin, and has received donations from many independent donors. Additionally this high class college system has a deal with ESPN worth about $300 million.

3. Yale University – $23.9 Billion

Ivy league in education and wealth, Yale University has achieved most of its riches through the traditional route, meaning it has many large and luxurious assets.  In recent years, Yale alumnae has chosen to give large sums of gratitude in the form of money to the university as well, from smaller donations up to $50 million or even $250 million.

4. Princeton University – $20.7 Billion

The richness of Princeton University seems to roll off the tongue. Ranked as the sixth best university in the world, it’s no doubt Princeton hails in the big bucks thanks to its esteemed graduating class, which includes the founders of Amazon and eBay.  Princeton also houses a world-renowned art museum stuffed with artwork from Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Andy Warhol. 

5. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology – $20 Billion

Founded in 2009 in Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) quickly jumped to one of the wealthiest universities in the world thanks to a hefty donation by King Abdullah himself.  Now well known as the ‘House of Wisdom’ and referred to as the Arab MIT, KAUST has doubled its net worth and has secured its progressive roots as the first co-ed campus in the region.

6. University of California – $13.1 Billion

Home to ten campuses and loads of land, University of California is a system of success.  Five of the campuses are listed in the top 50 universities across America, and is one of the favorites for public education. Its wealth is supplied mostly by the lay of its land, but also thanks to donors and program sponsors like The Hewlett Foundation and BP.

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – $12.4 Billion

Its first donation left by a mysterious donor named only Mr. Smith helped put the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the university map.  The secret sir was later discovered to be the owner of Kodak, and it was then that MIT took its technological turn to become the leader of science, technology, and a wealth of wealth.

8. Texas A&M University – $11.1 Billion

Situated among eleven campuses lies the Texas A&M University’s wealth.  They have become well known for their research backed programs, which includes support from NASA and The National Institute of Health. You will also find them rich with books at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

9. Northwestern University – $9.78 Billion

With three campuses in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, and Doha, Qatar, Northwestern University is a well known name when it comes to wealth.  They find richness in their esteemed educational programs, such as the Kellogg School of Management and the Feinberg School of Medicine.

10. University of Michigan – $8.27 Billion

Established in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the story of University of Michigan’s wealth started back with Henry Ford.  With support of the Ford Motor Company and a dedicated decade long fundraising campaign, University of Michigan continues to fill up on all kinds of riches.

11. Columbia University – $8.2 Billion

Surprisingly supported by lottery funds is where Columbia University began its journey.  Being a largely known research university, the shift to wealthy self sufficiency quickly came, and now Columbia runs a host of patent programs to keep the funds rolling in.

12. University of Cambridge – $8.1 Billion

Hands down the richest university in Europe, the University of Cambridge sits on a large piece of 800-year old history in the United Kingdom.  With large numbers of high-achieving alumnae who give back, and a lump sum from Bill Gates to offer international student scholarships, the University of Cambridge is lucky, and wealthy, number 10 on the list of the richest universities in the world.

US International Student Enrollment Dips for First Time in 12 Years

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shutterstock 178714502By Michelle Taylor for LabEquipment

More than 1 million international students on non-immigrant student visas enrolled in U.S. higher education in 2016/2017, a roughly 3 percent increase over the previous year. However, the number of new international students, or those enrolled at a U.S. institution for the first time in fall 2016 decreased by 3 percent—marking the first time there has been a decrease in the 12 years since stats started being tracked.

According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), which has released the Open Doors report annually for the past 12 years, factors in the decline could include a mix of global and local economic conditions, among other reasons. Significantly, large government scholarships from Saudi and Brazil were scaled back, contributing to the largest decline from students in those two countries.

What’s more, IIE conducted a separate survey in September/October 2017 to assess the upcoming 2017/2018 academic year. The nearly 500 institutions that responded reported continued flattening in the number of new enrolled international students—with an average decrease of 7 percent.

Now, those may just be numbers, but they are important given how much international students benefit U.S. colleges, universities and society in general.

In 2016, according to the Department of Commerce, international students brought $39 billion to the United States economy through tuition, room and board and living expenses. Open Doors’ 2017 report indicates that the majority of international students receive their funds from sources outside the U.S., including personal and family, as well as their home country’s government and universities.

“Their roles on campus as teaching and research assistants support the faculty in many departments, especially in STEM fields, and their diverse perspectives help enrich classroom learning for U.S. students,” reads the Open Doors report.

While the numbers are still increasing overall, and it’s certainly not a mass exodus, there is still some room for concern. Why, for the first time in at least 12 years if not longer, are international students not coming to the United States for higher education?

“Students continue to be attracted to the high quality and diverse opportunities offered by U.S. colleges and universities. But it is critical for U.S. institutions to set strategic goals and be proactive in reaching out to students and families in a wide range of countries in the coming year, and for the United States to keep its academic doors open to students from all over the world,” said IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman.

Location, location, location

According to the report, for the third consecutive year, the largest growth was in the number of students from India. Rather unsurprisingly, China holds the top spot, sending almost double the amount of students to the U.S. than India, but India’s rate of growth outpaced China’s. China and India are now accountable for approximately 50 percent of the total enrollment of international students in the U.S.

Countries following China and India include (in order): South Korea, Saudi Arabia (which was third last year), Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico and Brazil.

The Open Doors report also examined the number of American students who studied abroad in the 2016/2017 year, reporting an increase of almost 4 percent. Although the total number of 325,339 is at an all-time high, only about 10 percent of U.S. undergraduate students study abroad before graduation.

Interestingly though, American students majoring in STEM fields comprise more than 25 percent of those students who study abroad—a number that has been growing faster than the average for all other fields.

High-performing Universities Beats Prestigious Institutions to the Top in Four Regional University Rankings

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aub manThe rise of high-performing universities

The latest regional university rankings consist of 1000 universities in Asia, Latin America, the Arab region and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Ben Sowter, Research Director, QS shared that the latest regional rankings revealed an emerging trend in higher education within this region – an increasing number of universities are attempting to outdo prestigious universities in rankings through proactivity. ‘Second-tier’ universities in Japan and Malaysia are seen to be making progress as they begin making their way up into the top 50; while Mexico and Turkey witnessed a substantial representation in the uppermost tier of the lists.

Each ranking adopted a distinct methodology from that used for the overall QS World University Rankings, reflecting the specific challenges and focuses of each higher education landscape.

Arab region

In the Arab region, Lebanon’s American University of Beirut took the lead for the first time while King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) slipped to the second position.

Following close behind are King Saud University and King Abdul Aziz University, attaining the third and fourth place respectively. United Arab University makes it to the top 5 as it rose from sixth to fifth place; while Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University claimed the 10th position.

Saudi Arabia is the most represented nation in the rankings with 21 universities among the top 100. It is followed by Egypt and Jordan with 13 universities each. United Arab Emirates has 12 universities while Iraq and Lebanon has 11 and 8 universities respectively.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Lomonosov Moscow State University of Russia remained the leading institution. Russia took three of the top four with Novosibirsk State University and Saint Petersburg State University at the second and fourth place respectively. The third place was occupied by the Estonia’s University of Tartu, while Czech Republic’s Charles University came in fifth.

For the first time, Turkey has two universities that made it to the top 10 and they are Bogaziçi Universitesi (7th) and Middle East Technical University (9th).

The top 10 features universities from Russia (3), Czech Republic (2), Turkey (2), Estonia (1), Poland (1) and Kazakhstan (1).

Latin America

Among the Latin American universities, Universidade de Sao Paulo of Brazil, the previous leading institution came in third this time around; while Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile clinched the first position. Taking the second place is Universidade Estadual de Campinas of Brazil. Other two universities that made it to the top 5 are the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Technológico de Monterrey.

The top 50 features universities from Brazil (16), Chile (8), Mexico (7), Argentina (6), Colombia (5), Costa Rica and Venezuela (2), and Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay (1).


In Asia, Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University clinched the first spot while National University of Singapore slipped to the second place. Other three universities that made it to the top 5 include Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (3rd), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (4th) and University of Hong Kong (5th).

Other Asian universities that made it to the top 10 include Tsinghua University (sixth), Fudan University (7th), City University of Hong Kong (8th), Peking University (9th) and Chinese University of Hong Kong (10th).

Universities in Malaysia took a leap forward as three of its universities enters the top 50, joining Japan’s top four universities led by University of Tokyo. On the contrary, seven of India’s Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Science witnessed a slip in rankings.

Source: University World News

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