About THE's rankings

Everything you need to know about Times Higher Education’s global portfolio of university rankings

July 27, 2021
A map of the world with an eye in the centre
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At Times Higher Education we create university rankings to assess university performance on the global stage and to provide a resource for readers to understand the different missions and successes of higher education institutions.

Our rankings cover the three main missions of university activity: research, teaching and impact.

Each university in the rankings has a detailed profile, with a breakdown of its overall scores across the rankings and supplementary data designed to help students. For example, there are data on the staff-to-student ratio at each university, the total income per student, the proportion of international students and the gender breakdown of students.

Some universities have enhanced profiles to showcase their student offer and their individual strengths and qualities beyond the rankings data. To raise your university’s global profile with THE, please contact branding@timeshighereducation.com

THE’s rich data have become a vital resource for students, helping them to make one of the most important decisions of their lives – who to trust with their education.

To help students get the most out of our rankings, we have a dedicated Student section, providing student-focused news and advice and featuring a wide range of student blogs with invaluable first-person advice and tips.

The rankings are also widely used by faculty to inform career decisions, by university leaders to help set strategic priorities and by governments to help monitor policy. Why? Because the THE rankings are based on one of the richest databases of university performance in the world.


Research rankings

The THE World University Rankings, founded in 2004, provide the definitive list of the world’s best universities, with an emphasis on the research mission.

Our carefully balanced and comprehensive methodology was developed after more than a decade of working in consultation with the world’s leading universities, and builds on our team’s deep understanding of what makes a university truly world class.

Our team of data experts evaluates world-class universities against 13 separate performance indicators, covering the full range of a top university’s essential areas of activity: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

THE’s rich data has become a vital study advice resource for students, helping them to make one of the most important decisions of their lives – who to trust with their education.

The overall THE World University Rankings, featuring more than 1,500 institutions, are accompanied by a series of subject-specific rankings to help students determine where to study: 

All the rankings tables can be filtered by country and can be personalised to create a new rankings against any one of five key areas of performance, to suit user preferences.

You can read more about why THE’s methodology is trusted by students and watch our 90-second student guide to the rankings methodology below.

To create the THE World University Rankings 2021 list, THE’s data team drew on a comprehensive and growing database containing hundreds of thousands of data points on more than 1,900 global research universities, and employed a global Academic Reputation Survey of more than 22,000 leading scholars, who provided us with their expert views on the world’s leading universities.

In addition, we also analysed 86 million citations to 13.6 million academic publications (from Elsevier’s Scopus database) published over a five-year period between 2015 and 2019.

As well as the flagship THE World University Rankings, THE has drawn on its rich database to create a series of spin-off rankings, offering deeper insights into a wider range of universities against a wider range of missions, and providing students with even greater resources. Our major rankings are:


Impact rankings

In 2019, we launched our first Impact Rankings, the only global league table that assess universities against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Alongside the overall Impact Ranking, there are 17 tables showing universities' progress towards delivering each of the SDGs.

We use carefully calibrated indicators to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons across four broad areas: research, outreach, stewardship and teaching. 

We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about our Impact Rankings, but if you have any further questions, email impact@timeshighereducation.com.

Click to read analysis of the latest results


Teaching rankings

Our first teaching rankings – exploring the second of the great university missions – was launched in 2015. These rankings are geographically focused because the data associated with teaching, and the issues related to it, tend to be much more local than global in nature.

These rankings give students and their families the information they need to help them choose where to study, and have a survey of current students at their heart. The overall methodology explores four key areas, which we call pillars: resources, engagement, outcomes and environment.

For the latest rankings-related news, follow us on Twitter @THEworldunirank and register with us to sign up for our newsletters. Join our community of global higher education leaders at one of our summits for the exclusive launch of the latest THE ranking for that region.

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