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Higher Education World June 2016: Evaluating the World’s Best Higher Education Systems

Which nation has the world’s best universities? The question is of growing interest, and we have answered it with a novel analysis published in late May.

The Higher Education System Strength (HESS) rank is designed to show how good each nation’s university system is by world standards, and how appropriate it is to its host nation’s needs.

HESS is drawn up on the basis of four equally-weighted measures. Of these the first, which we call “System,” is a direct count of how many universities each nation has in the top 700 positions in the current QS World University Rankings, weighted by their average position so that a top-ten university counts for more than one just above 700th place.

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Edu Data Summit, EDS, dataset, conference, data, rankings, qs, london, summit, academics

Higher Education World 2016: Edu Data Summit

QS is on a permanent mission to ensure informed choices are made about higher education. This month, it took this commitment to a new level by holding the first Edu Data Summit, intended to look at all the ways in which big data is informing universities and improving the student experience.

Held in London on June 8-10, the Summit brought in almost 200 people from across the globe to talk about how the big data is impacting upon education. They included a host of fascinating speakers, led by initial keynote speaker Rafael Reif, President of MIT, who opened the event by video link.

Far from being a gleam on some futurologist’s horizon scan, the data wave has already hit academic life. Part of the reason is the growth in student use of connected devices. When people wrote essays on paper, it was hard to tell how they did it. Now a wealth of data is available on how they work, how long it takes them to do things, and where they work and spend time. Allied to the non-stop collection of data on topics such as seminar absence, this has allowed universities to create new tools that predict student failure, and allow potentially failing students to get timely help.

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Higher Education World June 2016: QS University Rankings (EECA)

Improved data collection has enabled QS to expand its unique ranking of universities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) from 150 to 200 institutions. But there is still remarkable stability at the top.

A total of 24 countries are represented in the 2016 edition of the ranking. Once again, Russia has by far the largest representation, its universities taking almost a third of the places. Among the 63 Russian universities in the ranking, five reached the top 20 and 11 the top 50.

For the first time, the top three EECA universities are all Russian. Lomonosov Moscow State University retains the lead it has held in all three editions of the ranking, with Novosibirsk State University still in second place. Saint-Petersburg State University, which has moved up four places in two years, has overtaken the Charles University, in Prague, to complete the clean sweep.

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Higher Education World 2016: QS University Rankings: Arab Region

Saudi Arabia continues to dominate the QS ranking of universities in the Arab Region, with 19 of the top 100 universities in the latest edition, including three of the top four.

Sustained investment in higher education has helped Saudi universities to repeat the successes seen in the first official ranking, published in 2015. But the full list remains surprisingly diverse, with 15 of the 21 members of the Arab League represented in the region’s top 100.

Although this is the same number as last year, there has been some movement even in the countries represented, with two Algerian universities appearing for the first time. The University of Tlemcen has come straight into the ranking in the 71-80 band, while the Université des Sciences et de la Technologie Houari-Boumediene features between 91 and 100.

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Higher Education World June 2016: QS University Rankings: Asia

This year’s QS analysis of Asia’s top universities looks similar to the 2015 edition, especially in the topmost positions. But there are a number of key changes to the indicators we use and the weights we assign to them.

One major change is to increase the weight given to our survey of employer opinion from last year’s 10 per cent to 20 per cent now. Because our academic survey is still weighted at 30 per cent, this means that the two surveys account between them for half of each university’s possible score. This increased emphasis on employer opinion is consistent with growing interest in graduate employability around the world, including in Asia.

In addition, we have introduced a new measure into the Asian rankings this year, one that is already used in our other regional rankings around the world. This is the percentage of academic staff with a PhD, weighted at 5 per cent in this year’s ranking.

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Higher Education World June 2016: QS University Rankings: Latin America

The Latin American ranking is perhaps the most eagerly awaited of the four regional comparisons published by QS. Over six editions, competition has become intense and media interest in the results exceptionally strong.

One reason is the diversity of the ranking: seven countries are represented in the latest top 20, a record number that confirms the continuing growth in high-quality provision throughout the region. The top three universities are unchanged since 2015 and there are no new entrants to the top 10. But, with universities from 20 countries among the top 300 in the region, there is more interest than ever in the ranking as a whole.

Universidade de São Paulo (USP) maintains its accustomed position at the head of the ranking, outperforming its city neighbour Unicamp (Universidade Estadual De Campinas) and Santiago’s Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) has become the nearest challenger to the top three, moving up two places since last year.

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Higher Education World – June 2016: Foreword

This edition of Higher Education World is by far the largest we have produced – an indication of the enhanced level of QS publications and events over the last month.

The four regional rankings – for universities in the Arab region, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America – always excite interest. They provide opportunities for universities that are yet to feature in world rankings to shine internationally, as well as reflecting the priorities of each region. We examine the results from all four separately.

Another well-established exercise, which has had a lower profile in previous years, is QS’s comparison of the higher education systems of whole nations. Martin Ince looks at the 2016 System Strength evaluation to see whether the success of top universities is a guide to overall national performance.

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Overview

HEW Newsletter – QS World University Rankings by Faculty

The QS World University Rankings by Faculty provide a more accurate comparison with last year’s results than our overall QS World University Rankings does. They are not affected by the methodological change that has caused extra volatility in the main rankings – this being the change in how citations are measured. Instead, the high level of stability in the Faculty Rankings illuminates the impact of the switch to normalising citations by faculty area. Few of the leading universities in any of the five faculty areas have moved by more than five places.

The only change in top position is in the Arts and Humanities, where Harvard loses first place to Oxford and is joined by Cambridge in joint second place. The other four areas have the same leaders, and the Social Sciences and Management have the same top six.

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HEW Newsletter – Foreword

The rankings season has started in earnest with the publication of the QS World University Rankings, and in this edition of the Higher Education World we examine the results and the impact of our biggest methodological change for a decade.

We also survey the results of the rankings by subject area, which are published alongside the main ranking but are unaffected by this year’s methodological change. And we look more briefly at attempts to rank universities for innovation, one of the characteristics often suggested for inclusion in world rankings.

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HEW Newsletter – Methodological Changes

The twelfth edition of the QS World University Rankings is now online.

We pride ourselves on keeping the Rankings methodology as stable as possible, so that the results provide a genuine year-on-year comparison of the world’s top universities. But this year we have made a few improvements, one of them especially important, to our methodology.

The significant change we have made concerns our measure of academic paper citations per faculty member. This accounts for 20 per cent of each university’s possible rankings score. As before, we have used five years of publications data from the Scopus database as the foundation for this figure. However, we have long recognised that this approach favours institutions with a substantial commitment to the Life Sciences and Medicine, which account for 49 per cent of the citations in Scopus.

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