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Discover the data behind the Times Higher Education World University Rankings

As a renewed multiyear partnership draws on Elsevier’s Scopus data, we look at how those rankings are created

Trevor Barratt, Managing Director of <em>Times Higher Education</em> (left), and M'hamed el Aisati, Elsevier's VP of Product Management, Funding and Content Analytics meet to discuss the provision of Scopus analytics for the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Trevor Barratt, Managing Director of Times Higher Education (left), and M'hamed el Aisati, Elsevier's VP of Product Management, Funding and Content Analytics meet to discuss the provision of Scopus analytics for the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

The rapid growth of the international higher education system has seen global competition emerge among colleges and universities, with each keen to secure top talent and funding. This has sparked a requirement for new, data-driven ways to understand and compare these institutions.

Founded in 2004, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings are one of the most globally recognised university ranking systems; they help students decide where to study, lecturers plan their careers, and policymakers plan funding programs.

Today, an extension of Times Higher Education’s 2014 partnership with Elsevier was announced; Scopus will remain the exclusive data source powering the flagship World University Rankings and derived rankings, including Asia University Rankings, BRICS & Emerging Economies , World Reputation Rankings, Young University Rankings, US College Rankings , US College Rankings, Japan University Rankings and Latin America Rankings.

Understanding the methodology

How exactly are the World University Rankings calculated?

The rankings are unique in that they score research-focused universities across all their core missions: research, international outlook, knowledge transfer, and teaching. Staff are surveyed to share their experiences and opinions, and these results are then combined with quantitative analysis, based on research data, to construct the ranking.

The resulting 13 performance indicators are grouped into five categories:

  1. Research: volume, income and reputation (worth 30 percent of the overall ranking score)
  2. Teaching: the learning environment (worth 30 percent)
  3. Citations: research influence (worth 30 percent)
  4. International outlook: staff, students and research (worth 7.5 percent)
  5. Industry income: innovation and knowledge transfer (worth 2.5 percent)

A key driver of Times Higher Education’s 2014 decision to partner with Elsevier was the broad global coverage and transparent structure of Scopus data, which enabled THE to analyse more research activity and institutions than ever before – including those in emerging economies where research outputs are rising rapidly.

Trevor BarrattAs Trevor Barratt, Managing Director of Times Higher Education, explained:

Four years ago, THE’s World University Rankings had 400 universities ranked; we now have 1,100. With Elsevier’s help, we have a much more global view of universities and their performance.

Working with Elsevier is almost like working with the home team because we have such a close partnership; they’re an integral part of our World University Rankings and World Academic Summit series. We both approach things from the same perspective – how can we work together to help universities improve their performance and benefit the world at large?

M'hamed el AisatiM’hamed el Aisati, Elsevier’s VP of Product Management, Funding and Content Analytics, added:

The World University Rankings are focused on supporting university and industry leaders in setting strategic priorities and making investment decisions, and they help governments shape national policy. These objectives align so closely with Elsevier’s; we feel privileged to be working together with THE to achieve them.

About Scopus data

Over the past 10 years, Scopus data has powered a wide spectrum of highly influential global and regional rankings, including FT MBA Rankings, QS, Shanghai China national university rankings, and the Maclean’s University Rankings Canada.

These organizations turn to Scopus because of the reliability and transparency of its data and because it implements systematic author and affiliation disambiguation across all disciplines. They also benefit from its content breadth: Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database of research information, with the article count recently exceeding 70 million articles, books and conference papers.

Content is drawn from more than:

  • 5,000 publishers
  • 23,000 journals
  • 150 countries (with 50+ languages catered to)

Content includes links to:

  • 70,000 affiliation profiles (universities, agencies and companies)
  • 12+ million author profiles

Why are rankings important?

Rankings can help students and their parents select a suitable university, and they are a useful resource for faculty when it comes to making career decisions. They can help university leaders identify strategic priorities, and guide corporate decisions on industry investment in academic partnerships. They have also proved to be a helpful springboard for government thinking. As former UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts explained: “We broadly accept the criteria used by Times Higher Education, which is why our policies are focused on the same areas.”

El Aisati added:

We have always believed these rankings are not designed to say that one university is better than another. It is more about being able to look at the institution through a variety of lenses, whether it’s teaching, research, knowledge transfer or international visibility. Universities are increasingly investing in an evidence-based approach to develop a clear understanding of their position and progress. They are increasingly using a basket of diverse metrics to understand their strengths, set goals, chart their progress, and make budgetary decisions. These rankings are just one of the tools they can use.

What are the terms of the extended partnership?

Scopus will remain the Times Higher Education’s sole source of bibliometric citation data for its World University Rankings as well as the derived rankings.

Times Higher Education’s editorial and conference team will continue to use Elsevier’s research benchmarking and analytics tool SciVal to identify subject matter experts for editorial purposes and potential speakers for its global summit series. In addition, Elsevier will continue to run an annual global academic reputation survey on behalf of THE.

Changes to the agreement include the addition of several geographical regions emerging as growing research hubs. Times Higher Education will also now have access to education data from Elsevier’s fellow RELX Group company LexisNexis Risk Solutions .

“The fact that Elsevier is part of RELX Group allows us to tap into a wealth of assets when it comes to technology, data or subject matter expertise,” El Aisati explained. “In this case, the information from LexisNexis Risk Solutions will provide additional insights for the US College Rankings.”

Watch a video case study on the World University Rankings

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