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Abertay University

  • Public University, Estd 1888
  • Dundee, Scotland
  • 46 Courses

Understanding University Rankings

In the process of researching universities you want to apply to, you’ve likely run into university rankings. But what do these numbers mean? A lot goes into informing the position a university or college holds in some of the most popular ranking lists. QS Top Universities, Times Higher Education, US News, Shanghai Rankings, etc. all collect and analyse a lot of data to determine what makes a university a great destination for students. Understanding this data also helps you figure out how to choose the right university for yourself!

While each of the major world university rankings has its own methodologies, using a set of indicators with different weightages to calculate that #4 or =99 or #201-250, there are a few consistent areas of overlap. Metrics typically look at the quality of education, teaching quality, employability of graduates, research outlook and reputation, research impact, international outlook, and more, to determine a university’s standing among thousands of other institutions. Because different rankings prioritise different metrics and measure and weigh them differently, you’ll also find that sometimes the university ranking impressively high in one ranking holds a more modest position elsewhere.

So, what does it all mean? Rankings are definitely a good way to shortlist universities you’re considering, especially when broken down into subject rankings to see how a university performs within a specific field. You can filter down your university search based on your preferences, focusing more on universities with a higher employability rate, or better international outlook. Rankings aren’t, however, conclusive information about how good one university is versus another. After all, one can only estimate how great the teaching environment is in a university, how friendly the community is to international students, and how good of a fit it is to your academic pursuits. The right university for you might not be one that appears high up on a ranking list. So, it’s important to use rankings to assist your university search, not limit it!