Want your university to be ranked by THE? Here are criteria used in ranking UI, LASU, others

Recently, Times Higher Education (THE) released a global ranking of universities for 2021 in which some Nigerian Universities were ranked. 

Globally, THE ranked the University of Oxford as the best, followed by Stanford University as the second and Harvard University as the third. 

The ranking table, aside from the rank of the universities,  showed the number of students for each school, the number of students per staff, international students and the female-male ratio of the universities.

Screenshot of THE global ranking.

In Nigeria, six universities were featured in the ranking table. The University of Ibadan (IB) was ranked  the best in Nigeria, followed by the Lagos State University (LASU) as the second and the University of Lagos (UniLAG) as the third in Nigeria.

Other Nigerian universities ranked are: the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and Covenant University (CU).

Screenshot of THE Nigeria ranking

Credit: Times Higher Education World University ranking website.

Following the recent data released by Times Higher Education for 2021, questions have been raised around the ranking criteria of this body and why its ranking should be trusted or taken seriously, seeing there are different bodies that rank universities in the world.

Other bodies that rank universities all over the world include Academic Ranking of World Universities, Webometric ranking of World Universities, CWTs Leiden ranking, Eduniversal, etc.

For THE 2021 ranking, more than 80 million citations were analysed across 13 million research publications including survey responses from 22,000 scholars globally.

What is THE?

Times Higher Education (THE) is a data source for students, parents, academics, government on the performance of universities. 

Established way back in 2004, THE is powered by Thomson Reuters and its data is independently audited by professional service firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

For transparency, THE makes available its methodology of ranking and notes that its assessment of universities is against  the UN Sustainable Developement Goals (SDGs).

THE has stored ranking data from 2011 to 2021 and its data has been used by different reputable news platforms like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC),  Premium Times, the Guardian, the Punch, etc.

How does THE rank universities?

The 2021 ranking covered 1,500 universities from 93 countries and regions. According to Times Higher Education, the ranking table is based on 13 carefully selected performance indicators that measure an institution’s teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook. 

These performance indicators are grouped into five areas: Teaching, Research, Citations, International outlook, and Industry Income.

  1. Teaching, which focuses on the learning environment, makes up 30% of the ranking. This 30% is made up of: reputation survey- 15%, staff-to-student ratio- 4.5%, doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio- 2.25%, doctorates-awarded-to-academic-staff ratio- 6%, and institutional income- 2.25%.
  2. Research, which makes up another 30% of the ranking, focuses on reputation survey- 18%, research income- 6%, and research productivity- 6%.
  3. Citations, another criterion which looks at research influence and role in spreading new knowledge and ideas, makes up another 30% of the ranking. This is done by capturing the average number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally.
  4. Another criterion is international outlook which focuses on staff, students, and research. This accounts for 7.5% of the ranking. Here there is the proportion of international students- 2.5%, proportion of international staff- 2.5% and international collaboration- 2.5%.
  5. The last criteria which is industry income, accounts for 2.5% of THE ranking. Here the focus is on a university’s ability to help industry with innovations, inventions and consultancy.  The aim is to capture such knowledge-transfer activity by looking at how much research income an institution earns from industry, scaled against the number of academic staff it employs.

The above indicators’ percentage  summed up makes 100%.

Can Universities be excluded?

THE noted that Universities can be excluded from the World University Rankings if they do not teach undergraduates, or if their research output amounted to fewer than 1,000 relevant publications between 2014 and 2018 (with a minimum of 150 a year). 

Universities can also be excluded if 80 per cent or more of their research output is exclusively in one of their 11 subject areas.

THE also has a detailed article on how universities can participate in the ranking .

How is THE Data collected?

According to THE, institutions provide and sign off their institutional data for use in the rankings but on rare occasions when a particular data point is not provided, THE enters a conservative estimate for the affected metric. 

This is done to  avoid penalising an institution too harshly with a “zero” value for data that it overlooks or does not provide.

From a series of specific data points to indicators, and finally to a total score for an institution, THE matches values that represent fundamentally different data. To do this, THE uses a standardisation approach for each indicator, and then combines the indicators in the proportions indicated in the table.

This standardisation approach is based on the distribution of data within a particular indicator, where a cumulative probability function is calculated and evaluation done where a particular institution’s indicator sits within that function.

For all indicators except for the Academic Reputation Survey, THE calculates the cumulative probability function using a version of Z-scoring.  

It noted that the Academic Reputation Survey is exempted because it requires the addition of  an exponential component.

The consistency of THE and the use of its data by credible News platforms give it credibility.

EDITOR’s NOTE: THE, wrongly written as The Higher Education has been corrected to Times Higher Education.

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