The Differences Between Rankings and Ratings

Not sure what the differences are between rankings and ratings? Here’s a breakdown on how the two systems differ.  

The global higher education sector is a competitive space with an abundance of exceptional institutions. 

Rankings and ratings both play a part in this space, helping to shape global higher education standards and inform students of their options. 

Rankings, like the QS World University Rankings, compare universities to one another and place them in an order based on their performance in a range of indicators.  

Ratings, like the QS Stars university ratings system, assess universities based on similar indicators but judge how they perform against a set standard, rather than comparing them against one another.  

The differences between these two systems can impact universities on a number of levels, so let’s examine these areas.  

Reaching more universities  

With the rankings, only one institution can be the best, and only a set number of institutions can be included within the rankings. For example, the QS World University Rankings rank the top 1000 institutions across the globe. 

For those universities not included in the rankings, ratings system allows them to achieve a globally recognized rating that can be used to attract prospective students and highlight their strengths. 

Under the QS Stars rating system, any institution can reach the highest possible rating, as long as they meet the criteria.  

Currently, 600 QS Stars audits have been completed or are underway across 60 different countries. 

Greater analysis of university performance  

The central purpose of rankings and ratings differ greatly.  

Rankings ask the question: “Who’s the best?” 

Ratings ask the question: “Who’s good at what?” 

QS Stars looks at dozens of indicators across at least eight categories, each comprised of several indicators, while the QS rankings look at six indicators across four categories.  

While the core indicators are similar, consisting of data in the areas of teaching, employability, internationalization, and research, the ratings also consider other factors like the learning environment and facilities, subject rankings, specialist programs, and advanced optional criteria like inclusivity, social responsibility, arts and culture, and innovation.  

If you’d like to learn more about the QS Stars requirements, download a free copy of our white paper; What Does it Take to Get 5 Stars?  

Marketing strengths, identifying areas for improvement  

This in-depth analysis allows universities to get a better understanding of where they need to improve. 

It also allows them to showcase areas where they shine, marketing and promoting specific skills and categories where they received high ratings.  

In the rankings, if an institution has a low rank or is not ranked at all, their marketing options may be limited 

Discover how the QS Stars university rating system works and what benefits it could bring to your institution by contacting our QS Stars team today 


About the Author:

As the B2B Content Marketing Manager, Sarah Linney is responsible for communicating the insights, research, and market analysis that have positioned QS as a thought leader in the higher education sector. After completing a Communications-Journalism degree at Charles Sturt University in Australia, Sarah worked in radio news and B2B print publishing before joining the content marketing sector. While working at a content marketing agency, Sarah was transferred to their New York office. She then led content marketing efforts at two tech startups in New York as a Content Manager before deciding to make the move to the UK and QS. 

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