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QS World University Tops® 2020


The QS World University Tops continue to enjoy a remarkably consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that we believe effectively capture university performance. Since faculty area normalisation was introduced in 2015 to ensure that institutions specialising in Life Sciences and Natural Sciences were not unduly advantaged, we have avoided fundamental changes. In doing so, we aim to ensure that year-on-year comparisons remain valid, and that unnecessary volatility is minimised.

Thus, universities continue to be evaluated according to the following six metrics:

  1. Academic Reputation
  2. Employer Reputation
  3. Faculty/Student Ratio
  4. Citations per faculty
  5. International Faculty Ratio
  6. International Student Ratio

Academic reputation (40%)

The highest weighting of any metric is allotted to an institution’s Academic Reputation score. Based on our Academic Survey, it collates the expert opinions of over 94,000 individuals in the higher education space regarding teaching and research quality at the world’s universities. In doing so, it has grown to become the world’s largest survey of academic opinion, and, in terms of size and scope, is an unparalleled means of measuring sentiment in the academic community.

Employer reputation (10%)

Students will continue to perceive a university education as a means by which they can receive valuable preparation for the employment market. It follows that assessing how successful institutions are at providing that preparation is essential for a ranking whose primary audience is the global student community.

Our Employer Reputation metric is based on almost 45,000 responses to our QS Employer Survey, and asks employers to identify those institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative, effective graduates. The QS Employer Survey is also the world’s largest of its kind.

Faculty/Student Ratio (20%)

Teaching quality is typically cited by students as the metric of highest importance to them when comparing institutions using a ranking. It is notoriously difficult to measure, but we have determined that measuring teacher/student ratios is the most effective proxy metric for teaching quality. It assesses the extent to which institutions are able to provide students with meaningful access to lecturers and tutors, and recognizes that a high number of faculty members per student will reduce the teaching burden on each individual academic.

Faculty/student Ratio constitutes 20 percent of an institution’s final score.

Citations per faculty (20%)

Teaching is one key pillar of an institution’s mission. Another is research output. We measure institutional research quality using our Citations per Faculty metric. To calculate it, we the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.

To account for the fact that different fields have very different publishing cultures – papers concerning the Life Sciences are responsible nearly half of all research citations as of 2015 – we normalize citations. This means that a citation received for a paper in Philosophy is measured differently to one received for a paper on Anatomy and Physiology, ensuring that, in evaluating an institution’s true research impact, both citations are given equal weight.


We use a five-year publication window for papers, so for this edition we looked at papers published from 2013 to 2017. We then take a look at a six-year citation window; reflecting the fact that it takes time for research to be effectively disseminated. In this edition we look for citations from 2013-2018.

All citations data is sourced using Elsevier’s Scopus database, the world’s largest repository of academic journal data. This year, QS assessed 74 million citations from 13.5 million papers once self-citations were excluded.

International faculty ratio/International student ratio (5% each)

A highly international university acquires and confers a number of advantages. It demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, which in turn suggests that it possesses a strong international brand. It implies a highly global outlook: essentially for institutions operating in an internationalised higher education sector. It also provides both students and staff alike with a multinational environment, facilitating exchange of best practices and beliefs. In doing so, it provides students with international sympathies and global awareness: soft skills increasingly valuable to employers. Both of these metrics are worth 5% of the overall total.

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How are the percentages segregated for each component? Example, if academic reputation is of 30%, what does the 30% include?

Hello, just a quick question. Is the data of Faculty/Student Ratio collected from the school? Or you estimated from your dataset? Thank you.

Hi Hsin, we do collect this data from the universities themselves, as well as government ministries, agencies such as HESA, web sources and other third-parties.

Hello. I am curious about 'Faculty/Student(F/S) Ratio scores'. I thought the higher faculty/student ratio means the higher scores but I noticed there are some exception for that.
For example,
Osaka University (Japan) F/S Score: 80.3
Academic Faculty Staff: 3,141 / Total Students: 22,716 => F/S ratio: 0.138272583...

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) (Malaysia) F/S Score: 74.9
Academic Faculty Staff: 2,420 / Total Students: 16,890 => F/S ratio: 0.143280047...

Even though, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) shows better performance in F/S ratio, why did Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) get a low score compared to Osaka University?

The scores for faculty student ratio (F/S) seem not consistent with actual F/S ratios at least for US universities. For example, for private Princeton University with F/S ratio at 5:1 is scored at 70.3. For University of Michigan, its F/S ratio is said to be 15:1, its F/S ratio is at 94.3. For UC Berkeley, its stated F/S ratio is 18:1, and yet its F/S score is at 28.9. For University of Colorado at Denver, a large public university with its stated 17:1, its F/S score is 100. Not sure how the scores are set based on actual F/S ratio.

Can you guide a bit more about the international faculty and international students part? More specifics about these certain departments.

where is webometrics?

I am Mr Hamza Djebli from Constantine 2 University. Our university doesn't figure in the QS world ranking. Please, can you explain the procedure so we can add our university to the list ?
Thanks in advance.
Kind Regards.

Hi Hamza, please email Many thanks.

Hello Sabrina, and thanks for the reply. Will do it.

I am trying to figure out that what is the assessment criteria of 5% international student ratio ?

Hello, when QS Rank measures the institutional research quality using Citations per faculty (20%: total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution), the Letters to editor are included in these Papers? As the Letters to editor are citable documents in Scopus. I would appreciate it very much if you could reply to me.

Hello. I was trying to figure out some aspects of the methodology. It is not clear the way University reputation means. I have read the description, but can not get quite is the population interviewed and what are the questions posed. If you could clarify that I would appreciate.

Hi, how is computed the "Overall Score" if one or more values of the six metrics are missing?

Hi Mary, when a university falls into a banded range (e.g 151-160) we will suppress some of their scores where they also fall into a range. This does not mean that we don’t hold the data, just that we do not display it publicly. Hope this helps to clarify!

Hello, is this the reason why some universities do not display an overall score? How can we obtain this data if it's not public?

I found the errouneous methodology of sampling for academic ranking. For example following academic signup sampling tends to make those obsessed with academic reputation tends to sign up and usually asia is more prone to sign up. However, those developed coutries like Japan or Europe tend to be less interested with how others think of themselves, as they have stronger ego. They are less interested in academic reputation. Please reconsider sampling method.

Academic Signup

"In 2010, QS initiated an Academic Signup process to enable the thousands of interested academics we meet each year to actively signal their interest in participation. Volunteers are screened to ensure institutions are not using the signup process to unduly influence the position of their own or rival institutions. Over 25,000 academics have signed up since the process was launched in February 2010."

I wonder which groups rank repuation usually. The mere weighting more to reputation can easily manipulate rankings. For example, if specific local groups force or lobby their scholars to give more points to their own university, then do you think the ranking truly reflects academic quality?

I think true college ranking should reflect the quality of academica work and talent of teachers and students. I don't understant how Seoul National Unviersity or University of Singapore which never received any Nobel prize is ranked higer than Kyoto University. I understand reputation is important. Who ranks reputation by the way? Mere weighting more to reputation can easily manipulate rankings. For example, if North Korea government ro China or South Korean government force their scholars to give more points to their own university, then do you think the ranking truly reflects academic quality?

How can you include in the same ranking universities that have marks in all criteria and others that are missing a few criteria. In Malaysia, it makes UCSI being ahead of UT Petronas, MMU and Taylor's University, which is a complete joke!

Hi Patrice, when a university falls into a banded range (e.g 151-160) we will suppress some of their scores where they also fall into a range. This does not mean that we don’t hold the data, just that we do not display it publicly. 

Hi, i would like to know if the success of the spin-off companies contributes to the rankings of a university too?!

can someone please answer my question. I would be very grateful.

Hi Onur, we don't consider spin-off companies when calculating the main World University Tops, however, we do consider 'alumni outcomes' as part of the methodology for the Graduate Employability Tops.

Hi. I'd like to know how you collect data for example number of international students, and more importantly, how you validate them? Thank you.

Hi Eric, we collect data from universities themselves, and validate it by comparing it to previous years' submissions and by asking our regional experts. Hope this helps.

LOL! You are basing 40% of your ranking on "reputation"???? Have you seen the communication/Damage control budget of University of California Davis? A chancellor has been fired over it! Basing your raking on 40% reputation is basing your ranking on how much money a school spends in tooting their own horn! This is ridiculous and has nothing to do with the quality of the school per se! Ask anyone in the EU if they know MIT, they'll probably know. Ask the same persons about Davis and they'll go DA...WHO? Could we just have rankings based on how easy it was to find a first job as First Graduate for example? Because that is what truly matters

Hi there? Just out of interest can I ask how you come up with the weights for scoring each university (i.e. Academic Reputation 40%, Employer Reputation 20%, etc...) I presume this is doe using principal component analysis and then rounded?

Hi Adam, the weightings for each of the indicators were reached over time, analysis of data and through consultation with our advisory board. For a ranking like the World University Tops, now in its 15th edition, it is this stability in the weightings of indicators that means results are comparable between years. 

Hahaha no answer... That says a lot. It is based on how much the university spends in telling everybody they are the best "in the world" (just that mind you!)

One question has been bothering me now is 2018 why your ranking is 2019

Hi Ming, this is because QS's cycle of rankings for 2018 concluded with the recent Best Student Cities ranking, and the 2019 cycle has begun with the World University Tops. In other words, the ranking cycle starts in June and ends at the end of May the following year.

Where can I find more info on the distribution of respondents of the latest academic survey?

Hi there, we had a distribution of over 83,000 respondents around the world in the latest academic survey - you can find more info, including on responses by region/country, here.

Hahahaha, not answer on ANY of the questions touching the statistical methods, the sample size, the respondents...

There are some universities that have campuses all over the world. If University Of Birmingham is ranked 80 in UK, does it mean that it ranks 80 in Dubai as well?

Hola, una peticion, me gustaria los datos a detalle de la clasificacion de las universidades, junto con el promedio que otorgaron para saber que puntaje tiene cada una de las universidades. ¿O saben donde lo puedo buscar? Gracias.

How could any university be included in QS Tops. Thanks
Dr Asem Hassan,
Faculty member, Diyala University, Iraq

Same question.. but no respond until now...

Hello, to be eligible for inclusion a university must teach at multiple study levels (i.e. both undergraduate and postgraduate), and conduct work in at least two of five possible faculty areas (arts and humanities; engineering and technology; social sciences and management; natural sciences; life sciences and medicine).

If you'd like to inquire on whether your university could be included, please  

Deben ser mas transparentes al momento de publicar los rankings, No les cuesta nada poner información más especifica, para poder ver las falencias de las universidades. gracias espero que lean mi comentario y lo tomen en cuenta

¡Hola! Por favor me pueden indicar como hago para acceder a la información de donde son extraídos los datos para los respectivos cálculos.

I think you should use infrastructure as a criterion. It should include infrastructure related to academics, i.e., campus, buildings, labs, library, computational facility etc. and also living conditions for students, i.e., hostel facility, choice and quality of food, basic facilities, hygienic conditions etc.

Hello! It's great to see QS world rankings by subject. Could you please also rank by a subject of Food Science and Technology? Thank you.

Hi! My university is the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy. This year it has been ranked by the Times Higher Education ranking: - among the best 10 universities in the World’s Best Small Universities Ranking - in the band of 251—300 this year out of 980 institutions worldwide - on the 6th place overall in Italy. But it does not even appear in your rankings. I think this should be corrected asap. Thank you!

Hi Federica, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano may not be eligible for our rankings - you can email to enquire further.

Thank you Sabrina, I shall do that, but this induces me to question the validity of your rankings...

Although the University of Tripoli, which is located in Libya is one of the largest and oldest Arab and African universities, it did not come in your ranking.
I wish clarification

Hi Klaled, there are thousands of universities around the world, and unfortunately it's not possible to rank every one of them. It may be that the University of Tripoli is not eligible for our rankings due to possibly being too specialized or not producing enough cited researh (to be eligible for inclusion, universities must conduct work in at least two of five possible faculty areas). Hope this helps to clarify.

The explanation above for faculty/student ratio says that the measure recognises that low faculty/student ratio will reduce the teaching burden on an individual academic. Surely the other way around, no? A lower student/faculty ratio would reduce the burden on the academic but not the other way around. So is a high score in this measure good, or is a low score good?

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