Rankings vs Ratings: What’s the difference?

A student browsing the TopUniversities website

At QS, we rank and rate institutions, but what is the difference between the two and how will they help deliver your internationalisation goals? 

Rankings show who has performed the best 

A university ranking’s primary function is to show which university has performed the best. Using a well-established methodology, institutions are ranked in comparison to their peers.  

The QS World University Rankings compare universities based on a range of criteria — in our case, academic and employer reputation, and sustainability among others. Based on their performance in these indicators, our experts then put universities in order. Students, prospective partners and governments can then get a measure of which university is the best. Our rankings provide a powerful snapshot of an institution’s academic prowess and global competitiveness.

Ratings show who’s good at what 

The QS rating system — QS Stars — is similar to an audit. Instead of comparing institutions against one another, they are judged on how they perform in areas that matter to students and partners, including learning experience, sustainability, and graduate outcomes. 

After being assessed using more extensive data than the QS World University Rankings, universities are given an overall QS Star rating, and a rating for each of the categories, all out of five. This means that every institution has the potential to achieve the highest QS Stars rating and therefore highlight specific areas of excellence beyond traditional metrics – every place of learning makes a unique contribution to higher education, after all.

The QS Stars badge

QS Stars is an internationally recognised mark of quality and can be used to refine an institution’s performance strategy, promote the university globally, and attract more students and education partners. 

Systems designed for today’s audience 

The last 12 months have seen significant changes to our QS World University Rankings and our QS Stars methodology. Using feedback from students and institutions, we’ve updated our tools to ensure they are fit for the future of higher education. 

After adding sustainability as a metric to the 20th edition of the QS World University Rankings, we’ve also significantly updated our QS Stars methodology – with the inclusion of sustainability being a major addition.

A complementary suite 

The QS World University Rankings and QS Stars work in harmony. A strong QS World University Ranking position boosts an institution’s global recognition and highlights academic prestige. A QS Stars rating takes a closer look at an institution and highlights its distinctive features. 

Both are unique opportunities for your institution to tell its story using indicators of quality that are understood across the world.

58% of students polled said they would be likely or very like to consider applying to a university if they rank lower but rates well in all areas. 

Using QS Stars to highlight your institutions unique strengths and QS World University Rankings to show the world your academic prowess, you can create a compelling and enticing narrative for your institution.

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