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QS World University Rankings 2021 is out
Roshna Mohan

Roshna Mohan is a Content Writer at Hotcourses India - an IDP company. A post-graduate in Biotechnology, she chose content writing as her career out of sheer interest. Reading and cooking are her stress-busters. Talk about these to take the introvert out of the ambivert. Her all-time favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Yuval Noah Harari and Robin Cook.


01 Jul 2020 Book icon 5 mins Share

QS World University Rankings 2021 is out

The world university rankings by QS will help you make an informed choice while deciding where to study.

01 Jul 2020 Book icon 5 mins Share
QS World University Rankings 2021 is out

How do you decide which university to go to? Is it based on the course you want to study? How would you make a decision if more than one institution is offering your preferred course? Do you think that consulting a university ranking list would help? Let’s find out.

QS or Quacquarelli Symonds conducts an in-depth analysis of the global higher education sector and institutions. QS then provides insights based on their findings from extensive surveys. They release the World University Rankings annually to rank the universities around the globe based on several criteria. They also conduct student surveys to understand the feelings and preferences of prospective international students. This means the QS university rankings are quite relevant to students, especially during these unprecedented times. Before we dive into the details of the 2021 university rankings, let’s answer the question we know you’re asking, namely who’s in number one spot.

It is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT has retained this position since 2012. It might help to know that MIT is also one of the five U.S. universities that offers the need-blind admission procedure to domestic as well as international students.  Need-blind admission means that the university does not evaluate the financial resources of an applicant when considering an application.

How are the QS world university rankings compiled?

80 countries are covered and over 5,000 institutions surveyed to find the top 1000 universities around the globe. First, let us give you a bit of an idea of how the rankings are put together and how universities are judged. Six metrics were used to determine the university ranks. The value in the brackets is the percentage attached to each metric.

Academic reputation (40%)

102, 500 responses were collected from across the globe to identify the best institution in terms of research.

Employer reputation (10%)

This data was collected from employers to understand which institution provided the best professionals and graduate outcomes. For the results in the 2021 rankings, 52,000 responses were scrutinised.

Faculty/student ratio (20%)

A good institution will have a fairly low student to faculty ratio. This means a higher number of faculty members per student. This facilitates an increased chance of interaction between faculty and students and is an indication of the quality of education.

Citations per faculty (20%)

This value is derived from the number of citations received per faculty member. This indicates the quality of research work being conducted at the university.

International faculty ratio (5%) and International student ratio (5%)

These values show how popular the university is among the academic staff around the globe and international students. The metrics will help analyse the global outlook the university has which in turn indicates a diverse university environment, enriching the lives of students as well as the faculty.

Who topped the rankings for 2021?

The top three institutions in the QS World University Rankings 2021 remained the same as the 2020 rakings:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  2. Stanford University
  3. Harvard University

They have retained the positions since 2018.

The top 100 institutions stayed relatively unchanged with one or two exceptions. 

47 new institutions made it to the top 1,000 this year. Two institutions made remarkable progress and jumped 100 ranks or more. India’s Savitribai Phule Pune University is one among the two. It falls in the 651 – 700 band. The other one is Sofia University in Bulgaria.

Which countries are on top of the list?

The U.S. and the UK have the most number of universities on the list. The U.S. has 153 institutions and the UK has 88 in the list of 1000. China is also not far behind with over 50 universities. 21 institutions from India made it onto the list. The notable ones are the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay which ranks at 172, Indian Institute of Science at 185 and Indian Institute of Delhi at 193.

Which institutions made it to the top 10?

The universities that made it into the top ten are (in the order of ranking):

4. California Institute of Technology (USA) (5th in 2020)

5. University of Oxford (UK) (4th in 2020)

6. ETH Zurich (Switzerland) (Retained the 6th position)

7. University of Cambridge (UK) (Retained the 7th position)

8. Imperial College London (UK) (9th in 2020)

9. University of Chicago (USA) (10th in 2020)

10. UCL (UK) (8th in 2020)

These ten universities have been making their way to the top ten since 2015. While the University of Oxford and UCL have fallen by one or more places when compared to the 2020 rankings, California Institute of Technology, Imperial College London and the University of Chicago climbed the ranks by a place. ETH Zurich and the University of Cambridge retained their position from 2020. Look out for ETH Zurich in Switzerland as the institution are gradually making their way up the list, starting at 10th  position in 2018, 7th in 2019 and remaining at the 6th position for 2020 and 2021 university rankings.

A quick look at the top 50

Five universities from Australia, four each from China and Hong Kong, three from Canada, two each from Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Japan and one from Germany made it to the top 50. There is a bit of diversity from 11 to 50 when compared to the top ten. The other 25 rankings from the top 50 were dominated by institutions from the U.S. and the UK.

Numbers 11 to 50 in the World University Rankings are:

11. National University of Singapore (NUS) (Singapore)

12. Princeton University (USA)

13. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) (Singapore)

14. Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (Switzerland)

15. Tsinghua University (China mainland)

16. University of Pennsylvania (USA)

17. Yale University (USA)

18. Cornell University (USA)

19. Columbia University (USA)

20. University of Edinburgh (UK)

21. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (USA)

22. University of Hong Kong (HKU) (Hong Kong SAR)

23. Peking University (China mainland)

24. The University of Tokyo (Japan)

=25. Johns Hopkins University (USA)

=25. University of Toronto (Canada)

27. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Hong Kong SAR)

=27. The University of Manchester (UK)

29. Northwestern University (USA)

30. The University of California, Berkeley (USA)

=31. The Australian National University (Australia)

=31. King’s College London (UK)

=31. McGill University (Canada)

34. Fudan University (China mainland)

35. New York University (USA)

36. The University of California, Los Angeles (USA)

37. Seoul National University (South Korea)

38. Kyoto University (Japan)

39. KAIST (South Korea)

40. The University of Sydney (Australia)

41. The University of Melbourne (Australia)

42. Duke University (USA)

43. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR)

44. The University of New South Wales (Australia)

45. The University of British Colombia (Canada)

46. The University of Queensland (Australia)

47. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China mainland)

48. City University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong SAR)

49. London School of Economics (UK)

50. Technical University of Munich (Germany)

Some movers and shakers

Shanghai Jiao Tong University moved up from the 60th place to the 47th place. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) jumped to 27 from 32. Fudan University also moved up from the 40th place to 34th place. The University of British Columbia climbed up from 51 to 45.

Duke university has fallen from the 25th position to the 42nd position. Kyoto University also fell from 33rd place to 38th place.

Some like the National University of Singapore (NUS) (11th), Yale University (17th), University of Edinburgh (20), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (21), The University of Manchester (27), Seoul National University (SNU) (37) have retained their ranks from 2020.

Interestingly institutions often analyse the International Student Survey (ISS) results along with the World University Rankings to get an idea of how they can meet the students’ needs. The ISS for 2020 had 78,000 respondents from 193 countries, with the topic focusing on the perceptions of COVID-19. The ISS data will show the key areas that the universities should focus on. Some of questions asked include how coronavirus is affecting the plans of prospective international students, how students assess teaching quality and what their mental health concerns are. The results of the survey are due to be released in July 2020.  It is important to note that the survey was conducted before the significant onset of the coronavirus pandemic. QS did note however, that the pandemic’s effect on the university rankings remains difficult to predict.

Remember that the rankings are not the only factor that should decide your choice of university. It should only help you make informed choices. If you’re looking for a bit more information, you can reach out to our experts or check out the latest updates from the higher education sector around the globe.

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