University ranking methodologies. An interview with Ben Sowter about the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Ranking




University Rankings, QS,


University rankings represent a controversial issue in the debate about higher education policy. One of the best known university ranking is the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings (QS), published annually since 2004 by Quacquarelli Symonds ltd, a company founded in 1990 and headquartered in London. QS provides a ranking based on a score calculated by weighting six different indicators. The 2015 edition, published in October 2015, introduced major methodological innovations and, as a consequence, many universities worldwide underwent major changes of their scores and ranks. Ben Sowter, head of division of intelligence unit of Quacquarelli Symonds, responds to 15 questions about the new QS methodology. 


Billaut, Jean-Charles., Bouyssou, Denis, & Vincke, Philippe (2010). 'Should you believe in the Shanghai ranking?' Scientometrics, 84(1), 237-263.

Docampo, Domingo (2011). 'On using the Shanghai ranking to assess the research performance of university systems.' Scientometrics, 86(1), 77-92.

Freyer, Leo (2014). ‘Robust rankings: Review of multivariate assessments illustrated by the Shanghai rankings.’ Scientometrics, 100(2), 391-406.

Hazelkorn, Ellen (2011). Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education. The Battle for World-class Excellence. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Jovanovic, Milica, Jeremic, Veljko, Savic, Gordana, Bulajic, Milica, Martic, Milan (2012). ‘How does the normalization of data affect the ARWU ranking?’ Scientometrics, 93(2), 319-327.

O'Connell, Catherine (2013). ‘Research discourses surrounding global university rankings: Exploring the relationship with policy and practice recommendations.’ Higher Education, 65(6), 709-723.

Paruolo, Paolo, Saisana, Michaela, Saltelli, Andrea (2013). ‘Ratings and rankings: Voodoo or science?’Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A: Statistics in Society, 176(3), 609-634.

Rauhvargers, Andrejs (2011). University Rankings and Their Impact. Brussels: European University Association.

Rauhvargers, Aandrejs (2013). Global University Rankings and Their Impact. Report II. Brussels: European University Association.

Safón, Vicente (2013). ‘What do global university rankings really measure? The search for the X factor and the X entity.’ Scientometrics, 97(2), 223-244.

Taylor, Michael, Perakakis, Pandelis, Trachana, Varvara, Gialis, Stelios (2013). ‘Rankings are the sorcerer's new apprentice.’ Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, 13(2), 73-99.

van Raan, Anthony F. J. (2005). ‘Fatal attraction: Conceptual and methodological problems in the ranking of universities by bibliometric methods.’ Scientometrics, 62, 133-143.






Discussion notes