There could be many reasons why a university does not appear in our ranking tables. QS World University Rankings® first began in 2004 and one of the first challenges was to identify an initial list of institutions to study further. For simple practical reasons, it would have been impossible to execute a methodology such as that set forth in these pages for every university in the world. At a UNESCO event in 2011, it was estimated that there are around 20,000 universities in the world. We look at the following to guide our inclusion:
- Domestic Ranking Performance – QS tracks other domestic rankings in an attempt to ensure prestigious universities are not excluded
- Survey Performance – respondents to the Academic and Employer Reputation Surveys are invited to suggest any institutions they feel may have been omitted
- Geographical Balancing – acknowledging that universities have different priorities and characteristics in different parts of the world, the balance of institutions from given countries and regions is periodically reviewed
- Direct Case Submission – institutions may approach QS directly to request to be evaluated. QS evaluates each case on its merits drawing a comparison against institutions already included in the ranking and, subject to certain pre-requisites and performance indicators being met is open to including additional institutions
In 2021 the surveys featured over 6000 institutions, with over 1000 being ranked in the QS World University Rankings 2021®. We recognise that higher education institutions can be very different from one another, but maintain that there is validity in comparing one against another as they usually have a certain number of common objectives – for most these include the pursuit of cutting-edge research and the education of first-rate students. However, there are certain kinds of institutions that may appear in other evaluations but are excluded either entirely or partly from our study. These are:
A) Research Institutes
Whilst this study does look at research metrics it was considered inappropriate to include research institutes that do not have students. Examples of such institutions include CERN in Switzerland, CNRS in France, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. It is worth noting that, in countries where much of the research takes place in such separate facilities, the research measures for the universities themselves sometimes underestimate the research strength of the faculty members.
B) Single Faculty Institutions
Institutions that focus on only one of our five broad faculty areas tend to be smaller and more intensive and also feel the full influence of any factors that affect their area of strength. These institutions are able to appear in our Subjects ranking but are excluded from our world and regional rankings. Notable cases include the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, HEC Paris, and Bocconi in Italy.
C) Single Level Institutions
Institutions that operate at either undergraduate only, or more commonly postgraduate only level have certain natural advantages in areas such as the student-faculty ratio or citations per faculty that would lead to anomalous placing in our overall table. Again these are permitted to appear in our Subject ranking but are excluded from World and Regional rankings.
Institutions traditionally operating at one level, but recently introducing degree-level programs at the other, can be considered for inclusion a minimum of three years after the first class graduate from programs defined as within at least two of our five broad faculty areas.