Quacquarelli Symonds

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Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) is a company specializing in education and study abroad. The company was founded in 1990 by Nunzio Quacquarelli. Today, QS has over 200 employees and operates globally from offices in London (head office in Hampstead, North London), New York, Paris, Singapore, Stuttgart, Boston, Washington DC, Sydney, Shanghai, Johannesburg and Alicante. QS provides services for undergraduates, graduates, Masters, PhDs, MBA, and Executive MBA candidates. It offers publications and events to broaden the scope of study abroad. QS runs events and produces guides for postgraduates across 35 countries.


QS World University Rankings

QS launched the World University Rankings in 2004, in cooperation with the Times Higher Education Supplement. QS and THE ceased their business relationship after the publication of the 2009 Rankings. QS assumed sole publication of the existing methodology when Times Higher Education split in order to create a new ranking methodology in 2010, which became the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

In 2011, the QS World University Rankings were published online and by media partners around the world, including ''US News and World Report''. The University of Cambridge was top for the second successive year. The 2011 Rankings were also be published in book form, the sixth year that this has happened. The book series – called Guide to the World’s Top Universities and Top Universities Guide - allows institution profiles, student guidance and other information to be published alongside the Rankings. From 2010, the Guide has been published in Chinese as well as in English.

The World University Rankings are controversial. Here are some comments and criticisms from experts and the media.


Three very different sources praised the QS rankings on successive days in 2011.

On 5 September 2011, the Huffington Post Canada said that the QS rankings were: "considered among the most respected in the field, though such surveys remain controversial."

The University of Leicester said online on 6 September 2011 that the QS rankings were "arguably the best-known and respected ranking of its kind.

And on September 7 2011, the New Straits Times, the leading newspaper of Malaysia, said: "Whether we like it or not, the QS World University Ranking has been accepted worldwide as the benchmark for academic excellence, where universities are ranked based on data gathered and assessed in a number of areas such as academic peer review, employer reputation review, international faculty ratio and citations per faculty among others."

Ann Mroz, then editor of THE, told ABS-CBN News on Tuesday 13 October 2008: "These rankings use an unprecedented amount of data to deliver the most accurate measure available of the world’s best universities, and of the strength of different nations’ university systems. They are important for governments wanting to gauge the progress of their education systems, and are used in planning by universities across the world."[1]

However, commenting in 2009 on Times Higher Education’s decision to split from QS, Ms Mroz said: “universities deserve a rigorous, robust and transparent set of rankings - a serious tool for the sector, not just an annual curiosity." She went on to explain the reason behind the decision to continue to produce rankings without QS's involvement, saying that: "The responsibility weighs heavy on our shoulders...we feel we have a duty to improve how we compile them.”[2]


Since the split from Times Higher Education, further concerns about the methodology QS uses for its rankings have been brought up by several experts. Most are concerned with its use of academic and employer opinion instead of the more mechanistic approach adopted by the ARWU rankings in their focus on research. Because QS exists to provide information to students, it regards it as a strong point, not a drawback, that it uses measures such as employer opinion that they might find helpful.

Simon Marginson, professor of higher eduducation at University of Melbourne, in the article "Improving Latin American universities' global ranking" for University World News on 10 June 2012, said: "I will not discuss the QS ranking because the methodology is not sufficiently robust to provide data valid as social science."[3]

In an article for the New Statesman entitled "The QS World University Rankings are a load of old baloney", David Blanchflower said: "This ranking is complete rubbish and nobody should place any credence in it. The results are based on an entirely flawed methodology that underweights the quality of research and overweights fluff... The QS is a flawed index and should be ignored."[4]

Philip Altbach, professor of higher education at Boston College, in an article, The Globalisation of College and University Rankings, in Change magazine, Jan/Feb 2012, said: “The QS World University Rankings are the most problematical. From the beginning, the QS has relied on reputational indicators for half of its analysis… it probably accounts for the significant variability in the QS rankings over the years. In addition, QS queries employers, introducing even more variability and unreliability into the mix. Whether the QS rankings should be taken seriously by the higher education community is questionable."[5]

Quacquarelli Symonds has been faulted for some data collection errors. For instance between 2006 and 2007 Washington University in St. Louis fell from 48th to 161st because QS mistakenly replaced it with the University of Washington in Seattle.

On 15 October 2009, The Sunday Times, reported: "While Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and Oxford top both the QS and Sunday Times rankings (albeit in different orders), the world rankings are not always popular among our leading universities. “The world ranking is the league table we love to hate” said Niall Scott, Director of Corporate Communications at the University of St Andrews, “because the methodology seems to punish smaller institutions. To us it’s an anomalous result. We are consistently top five domestically but suddenly find ourselves further down the world rankings and behind universities that are behind us domestically. There’s no logic, no science to that. It is a different methodology.”[6]

Asian Rankings

QS began publishing its Asian University Rankings[7] in 2009. They use some of the same data as the World University Rankings as well as new information on topics such as universities' inbound and outbound exchange students. Top Asian university in 2012 is Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, followed by the National University of Singapore. The Asian rankings are generally published in the (northern hemisphere) spring. In 2012 the Asian rankings are published in numerical order from 1 to 150, then in bands of 10 to 200, and then in two bands of 50, from 201 to 250 and from 251 to 300.

Latin American Rankings

The QS Latin America University Rankings[8] were published for the first time in 2011 and were widely noticed by the regional media. The first edition in 2011 and the second, published in 2012, both showed that the University of São Paulo in Brazil is the top institution in Latin America. They use some criteria in common with the World University Rankings and others developed in consultation with experts in the area. The final ranking is derived from academic review (30 per cent), employer review (20 per cent), citations per paper, papers per faculty member, percentage of faculty with a PhD, faculty/student ratio and web visibility (10 per cent for each of these five). Web visibility is derived from Webometrics [1] and the citations and papers data comes from Scopus, as with the main and Asian rankings. There is an explanation of the methodology here.[8]

Rankings by subject

In 2011 QS began to publish the World University Rankings by subject for 26 disciplines from chemical engineering to music. These rankings[9] use academic review, employer review and citations data in combinations varied to match the culture of the different subjects. In 2012 these rankings were expanded to 29 subjects with the same methodology. They are intended to address the most frequent criticism of the general rankings, which is that individual students want material on specific subjects as well as on universities overall.


The QS Intelligence Unit is a part of QS which provides strategic information to business schools, universities, and employers going beyond the information contained in the World University Rankings. Its products include:


QS draws on the data collected for the QS World University Rankings and other information which it gathers to offer a benchmarking services to universities, comparing them with their peers.

QS Stars

QS Stars is a system used to evaluate universities on a range of performance indicators. These include research quality, graduate employability, careers service support, teaching quality, infrastructure such as sports facilities and medical care, student societies and accommodation, IT and libraries, international appeal, innovation and knowledge transfer, and community involvement.


QS delivers admissions and careers service solutions for universities, business schools, alumni networks and other relevant communities that require online; outreach, enquiry management, applications and networking solutions.

QS MBA Events

QS runs a number of MBA related events, notably the World MBA Tour and TopMBA Connect 121, in major cities around the world designed to provide a meeting place for business schools and prospective MBA candidates. Schools that regularly attend these events include University of Chicago Booth School of Business, USC Marshall, NYU Stern, the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell, INSEAD, IE Business School, ESADE, London Business School, HEC Paris, the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, IMD, and CEIBS.

QS Asia Events

QS Asia Quacquarelli Symonds is the regional subsidiary of QS. Located in Singapore, QS Asia is the organiser of QS-APPLE, QS-MAPLE, QS in conversation and QS WorldClass, among other products that help Middle East, Asian and African universities to level up on the world stage.


QS Trust awards scholarships each year to six or more outstanding young professionals for their demonstration of socially responsible leadership. The QS Trust also runs a scholarship scheme in collaboration with business schools and universities around the world. In 2009, QS offered US$1,600,000 in scholarship funding to participants from around the world.


QS Consulting is an independent division of QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd (QS) and offers comprehensive and practical advisory service on performance improvement for Universities, Higher Academic Institutions and Government/Quasi Government organisations globally. The division's prime objective is to work closely with Higher Education Institutions to help them achieve excellence through improved performance.

The division has clients across Middle East Asia,Latin America,Africa and Eastern Europe.



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