One of the factors that sets QS Rankings apart from many other rankings is our policy of not allowing universities to opt-out of the rankings.
The QS World University Rankings are intended to be a public service, providing a precise and accurate reflection of higher education reality in order to inform students, parents, and wider stakeholders. In order to achieve these aims, it’s important that we execute a ranking that features all institutions that merit inclusion.
Rankings which allow opt-outs can have the adverse and unintended consequence of making the rankings not only less valuable to students, but less rigorous and transparent. The institutions that often seek to opt-out are those that perform less well in a ranking, and their motivations for opting out are not always noble. QS does not seek to hide underperformance. Similarly, if many institutions were to opt-out, it could also artificially inflate the performance of the remaining institutions. If we liken it to a ranking of cars - were Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes Benz or Range Rover to opt out of a ranking of cars, other brands would then move up into the top spots, without any additional effort. This should illustrate the problem - a ranking that neither features those brands, but also puts four other brands at the top, would be challenged on its credibility. Students, at the heart of our rankings mission, expect a full and unbiased table with the names of institutions they know both domestically and internationally.
Where we don’t have the cooperation of the individual institution (which we would always prefer), we feature them on the strength of proprietary and publicly available or previously supplied data. Our rankings are designed with this in mind. Many of our metrics - such as reputation, or research strength, can be modelled without direct institution data. The types of institution data we require, such as faculty or student numbers, are almost always a matter of public record. Only under very clear circumstances, and with the agreement of our governance process, can institutions be exempted for particular reasons.
Opting out vs. Eligibility
These are two distinct processes. Many institutions do not appear in a particular ranking because they are ineligible to do so, or because they are underperforming. This could be because they do not teach a broad spectrum of subjects, or because they are too small, or because they have not met analytical performance thresholds. You can find more about this here. Opting out refers to those institutions, then, that are eligible but for a particular reason (such as undergoing a merger with another institution) are seeking not to be included.