Research article

University Rankings

The US dominates list of institutions.

University rankings such as those published by The Times and QS enjoy a high level of engagement with prospective students and have become a starting point for many prospective students choosing a place to study. The US and to a lesser extent, the UK dominate these rankings. Taking the top 50 alone, US institutions account for 18 of the QS top 50 and 28 of the Times top 50, followed by the UK with eight and seven institutions respectively. Australia and Canada follow with between two and five institutions in each. France, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark all have two or fewer institutions in each top 50 list.

One explanation for the Anglo bias is the way in which these rankings are calculated. A very high weighting is given to research (specifically academic citations), which counts against some European institutions. In Germany, for example, research often takes place at affiliated institutions that are not directly part of the university.

Some 40% of the QS ranking is based on a survey academic reputation, so established universities will always rank ahead of newcomers. Quality of teaching does not feature at all as there is no international standard for this (for QS a student-to-faculty ratio is used). This neglects a factor that is especially important to undergraduate students.

In spite of this, universities ranking highly in these commonly cited league tables enjoy more press coverage, carry more global weight and, in turn, receive more applications than the competition. They perpetuate their appeal to a national and global student base, meaning high and sustained student numbers and consequently a robust demand base for student housing providers.

We expect that alignment to the bachelor system, a greater number of courses taught in English and a general commercialisation of major institutions will help raise the profile of the best universities in mainland Europe in coming years, making this a strong potential growth area for accommodation providers.

Figure 11

FIGURE 11High-ranking US and UK institutions

Source: The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings

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