More than two million people accessed the QS World University Rankings online after they were published last month. With social media debate on the rankings also sharply increased, interest in the exercise is at an all-time high.
Media coverage of the rankings, which saw the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in top position for the first time, spanned the world. Newspapers and online news organisations from Taiwan to the United Arab Emirates celebrated the success of their universities or questioned their lack of progress.
But it was the rise in social media traffic that demonstrated the growing interest in the rankings among students and other young people. A post about a rise of three places by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was ‘liked’ 1,250 times on Facebook.
Media reports showed the importance of the QS rankings to universities with an international outlook. In the UK, The Independentdescribed them as “widely recognised throughout higher education as the most trusted international tables”.
In The Scotsman, Professor Anton Muscatelli, the principal of the University of Glasgow, said the rankings played a crucial role in helping to assert Scotland’s place on the international stage, while helping to bring in new students.“The tables are always going to be based on a small number of indicators and have to be treated cautiously,” he said. “But there’s no doubt they are one of the key factors students look at, especially international students.”
“QS does a very extensive survey of peer reputation and asks around 40,000 academics and 20,000 employers,” he added.“There’s a strong objective element too, but it’s not the only measure of how students choose a university.” Professor Muscatelli said Scotland was unique for a country of its population in having three three universities in the top 100.”
In India, however, The Hindu said: “There was little reason for India to smile when the prestigious QS World University Rankings were announced recently. No Indian institute figured in the world’s top 200 universities of the list of 700 that were ranked under the scheme.”
The Australian also noted with concern that: “Local universities are losing ground in the QS global rankings as international competitors build their academic reputations and begin to pursue the overseas student market in earnest.”
The Toronto Sun noted with satisfaction the presence of two Canadian universities in the top 20. Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill University’s vice-chancellor and principal, said she was pleased by McGill’s consistently high placing in the QS ranking, but warned that this could be at risk without stable government funding.
In the Middle East, too, there was heightened interest in the exercise, with 26 of the region’s universities appearing in the rankings.
The Gulf Today, for example, celebrated the American University of Sharjah’s debut in the top 500 of what it described as “one of the world’s most trusted university rankings”. Dr Peter expressing his satisfaction for this classification said: “This is good news for all of us and that the AUS meets the international standards of excellence.”
Even at Harvard, which is well used to appearing at the top of domestic and global rankings, The Crimson, the university newspaper, described third place in the latest QS rankings as “a little international good cheer”. MIT News played a straight bat, however, reporting without comment that the university had been ranked top in the world for the first time, having also topped 11 of QS’s 28 subject rankings.