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World in Motion? It’s time for the QS 2019 Global Ranking

You've got to hold and give, and do it at the right time. Paul "Registrarism" Greatrix is in the commentary box for this new ordered list of universities.
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

As the World Cup approaches there is also worldwide excitement in higher education – the QS world ranking is now out.

However, the top 10 is largely static and in the top slot we find, yet again, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yes, it’s yet another marvellous year at number 1 (seven years on the trot!), and a record-breaking run for MIT.

The next three places are unchanged as well but then there are a few minor place swaps meaning that the top 10 is very much as it was last year (and the year before that..).
The full details of the latest global league table can be found at the QS World University Rankings 2019 site (which does once again seem to feature a big lion for no obvious reason).

A lion, yesterday.

Let everyone see –  The global top ten

11Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
22Stanford University
33Harvard University
44California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
56University of Oxford
65University of Cambridge
710ETH Zurich
88Imperial College London
99University of Chicago

Don’t give up the chase – Top UK universities

As in the 2018 ranking four out of the top 10 are from the UK which remains a pretty positive performance. Some exciting QS facts about UK universities’ achievements together with a few rather more worrying indicators:

  • 76 universities from the United Kingdom are ranked this year. 41 improve their rank, while only 20 drop. 15 remain stable within their position or band;
  • There are two new UK top-100 entrants this year: the University of Leeds, rising from 101st to 93rd; and the University of Southampton, which jumps from 102nd to 96th.
  • As a system, the UK has seen consistent improvements in the indicator that QS use to measure research impact, Citations per Faculty. 49 of the country’s 76 ranked institutions improve their performance for this indicator, while only 27 drop;
  • However, this year’s results also provide evidence that class sizes continue to rise relentlessly in the UK, with potentially negative consequences for both student experience and rankings performance. 70 of the UK’s 76 institutions see their score for Faculty/Student Ratio drop – as close to a uniform trend as is seen among major nations in this year’s tables;
  • For a third consecutive year, the results also provide evidence that the UK is beginning to lose its appeal to international students. 53 of 76 universities see their score for International Student Ratio drop, with only 22 making improvements. This represents a slight but present exacerbation of last year’s regressive trend, where 51 of 76 saw their rank in the same indicator drop.

The 18 UK universities in the top 100 are as follows:

  5   6 University of Oxford
  6   5 University of Cambridge
  8   8 Imperial College London
  10   7 UCL 
  18   23=University of Edinburgh
  29   34 The University of Manchester
  31   23=King's College London 
  38   35 LSE
  51   44 University of Bristol
  54   57 The University of Warwick
  69=  65 University of Glasgow
  74   78=Durham University
  75=  82=The University of Sheffield
  79=  84=University of Birmingham
  82   84=The University of Nottingham
  93=  101 University of Leeds
  96   102=University of Southampton
  97   92 University of St Andrews

Ben Sowter (Research Director at QS), observed:


The challenges for the UK’s sector remain, and are perhaps more evident than in previous years. The drops in faculty/student ratio, combined with low contact hours, will lead to increasing scrutiny about the extent to which students are receiving value for money. It’s no coincidence that the UK’s best institution is also the one with the lowest student-teacher ratio. Additionally, the result indicate that the sector is still struggling to convince international students of the country’s desirability in the first post-Brexit years.

Uh oh.

There’s only one way to beat them, get round the back

The methodology for the QS rankings is, as they put it themselves, “remarkably consistent”:

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.

Based on six performance indicators, the ranking assesses university performance across four areas: research, teaching, employability and internationalization. These are weighted as follows:

  • Academic reputation (40%)
  • Employer reputation (10%)
  • Student-to-faculty ratio (20%)
  • Citations per faculty (20%)
  • International faculty ratio (5%)
  • International student ratio (5%)

Full details of the rankings methodology can be found at the QS website where you can also find all of the other QS rankings: regional rankings, the QS Best Student Cities ranking, rankings by Subject Area, the QS Higher Education System Strength Ranking, and, most recently, the QS Graduate Employability Ranking.

Express yourself, it’s one on one

If you really want to express yourself you can join in the discussion on this stuff at #QSWUR where I am sure there is much rankings related fun to be had.

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