Tanmoy Ray in beBee in English, Students, Education and Training Manager - Instituitional Alliances & Counselling Head • MeetUniversity.com Oct 3, 2016 · 2 min read · +300

Limitations of the University League Tables (QS, Times Higher Education & ARWU)

Limitations of the University League Tables (QS, Times Higher Education & ARWU)

When it comes to Study Abroad, there is always an apprehension among the students (and parents) about return on investment apart from the anxiety of moving to a new environment (country and culture). At the end of the day, study abroad is an expensive affair for the majority of international students. Several students will take bank loans to fund their study and stay in a foreign country. So, the anxiety (or fear) is very normal among study abroad aspirants.

University League Tables Can Be Misleading

Now, when it comes to choosing the right university for study abroad, students face even more confusions. The League Tables - QS, Times Higher Education (THE) and ARWU add even more confusion. Each ranking table has got its own methodology and therefore, different results. Though there is some sort of correlation between QS and THE, ARWU results are wide apart. 

Besides creating confusions among young minds, these ranking systems (Prestigious League Tables) misguide the students to some extent as well. The University League Tables create a hullabaloo among the study abroad students and I personally feel them little bit overhyped. All of the three ranking systems put more emphasis on academic reputation & heritage, and research output. Thus they are biased towards few universities. Consequently, they do not show a clear picture about the teaching and training standards. 

Do Not Refer To A Single League Table

Personally, I have never been a fan of the belief that an institute should be judged solely on the basis of Ranking & Reputation. I am not against the Ranking Tables. They are indeed useful; but up to a certain extent. Students should learn how to use the ranking tables effectively for their own benefits. Rather than looking at a single table or the top university, students should look at a set of excellent universities. For example,  the Top 50 Ranked Universities by EML according to QS, THE and ARWU.Limitations of the University League Tables (QS, Times Higher Education & ARWU)

But, even that list is based on the findings from those prestigious (but biased) league tables. All the three popular league tables give a lot of weight to the Academic Reputation factor. It’s important to remember that while reputation is (or can be) important, it won’t (or can't) be the only thing that makes a university good for a student. The ranking tables are also over-assessing the Research Quality and Output of the universities. 

Best University is a Myth

Just like there is no Best League Table, likewise there is no Best University. What students need to choose is the Right University. Students need to assess their profile, financial budget, course content & career goals; then choose the right university for themselves. It is very difficult (or may be impossible and USELESS) to debate over things like:

  • Which is more Prestigious in the UK - Oxford or Cambridge?
  • Which is the Best University in USA - Harvard or Stanford? 
  • Which is More Innovative in Singapore - NUS or NTU? 
Questions like above are always debatable, and hence a waste of time. Just like the debate - who is the better player between Messi and Ronaldo?
Limitations of the University League Tables (QS, Times Higher Education & ARWU)

There is More to Education Beyond Rankings & Reputation

Students should give more importance to the factors like Student Satisfaction, Industry Collaboration, Return-On-Investment, Employment Rate within 3 months after Graduation, and Average Salary after 3 years of Graduation. They should put more weight on parameters like Employer Reputation, Industry Income, Number of Patents (rather than just only research publications). 

These World University Rankings are definitely useful for students looking at to pursue a research degree. But, they might not be too much of useful (in fact, misleading) for students looking at to study Bachelors or Masters. After all, there are several factors that are not being measured by QS, THE and ARWU (or maybe not measurable at all). I would strongly advise students to choose a university that features within Top 500 in QS, THE and ARWU. More importance should be given to the Regional (and Country) and Subject Rankings of QS and THE. Another useful alternative would be The 50 Under 50 League Tables of QS and Times.

Limitations of the University League Tables (QS, Times Higher Education & ARWU)

Advice For Students

Course content (program) should come first, and then the university. A degree from a Top University does not guarantee you a job or a good career. Neither does a good program. But if you pursue the right course from the right university, the probability of having a good career will be much higher. Read more on the Trending Courses With High Return on Investment and Top Courses To Study Down Under.

Education is very important, and you should be careful with decisions regarding choosing a course and university. You should be even more careful when it comes to Study Abroad. It's your career, and you should take well-informed decisions. Last but not the least, "Do Not Chase The Rankings Blindly".

For more details on Methodology and Comparision on QS vs THE vs ARWU, please refer to my other blog article: World University Rankings 2016-2017: QS vs Times Higher Education vs ARWU – Review and Analysis

Tanmoy Ray 4/10/2016 · #2

#1 Thanks, @Vincent Andrew !
I agree with you completely. Ranking is a useful metric, but it's not everything. I really liked your point on the experience of studying and working with students and professors from diverse background. That is why I think the Student Satisfaction should be an important parameter of the World University Rankings.

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Vincent Andrew 4/10/2016 · #1

Rankings are but one metric to consider for application to universities. With two kids in foreign universities, my considerations include (in no particular order) cost, ranking, whether the university is recognised back in home country upon return from study, course content and to some extent, distance from home. When I ask my kids how their studies have been, they both think that the experience is better as there is greater diversity of students and professors. They learn to be independent, make new friends and explore the places they are in. Sometimes things like this are not covered in the metrics and even if they do they may not be represented properly. Thanks for this article @Tanmoy Ray. The first I have seen on bebee discussing the rankings of Universities.

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