QS World University Ranking 2022


Prior to the release of the 2022 ranking, we spoke to Andrew MacFarlane, Senior Research Manager at QS, to learn more about this ranking and to find out how to read and understand this particular ranking.

“What would I say that [students] can expect this year? Well, it’s the biggest one yet – 1,300 institutions – so I imagine every student looking at it should be able to find a university that suits them,” he tells us. (15:17)

“There are some good risers from other countries that are not the US or UK, and given we’re in a global world, think a bit creatively about where you want to study. For example, we’ve seen quite an encouraging rise in Chinese performance over the last few years, Australia is doing rather well, so don’t be constrained by old stereotypes,” he advises. (15:39)

Here are the top 10 universities in the world according to the QS World University Ranking 2022:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  2. University of Oxford
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. Harvard University
  6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  7. Imperial College London
  8. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  9. UCL
  10. University of Chicago

Check out the full QS World University Rankings 2022

In the next couple of sections, we’ll take a look at what the QS World University Ranking is, and what its criteria are. If you would prefer to just read our analysis of the 2022 rankings, head straight to the bottom of the article.

What is the QS World University Ranking?

The QS World University Ranking is one of the three most prestigious university rankings along with The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), or Shanghai Ranking. According to the QS website, theirs is the most widely-read university ranking in the world.

QS actually used to publish its ranking in collaboration with The Times until 2010, when it started publishing its own list and The Times adopted a new methodology for theirs. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been the number one university in the QS ranking since 2010.

Aside from the global ranking, QS also publishes a range of related lists including by subject, region, and employability. They also publish separate rankings for MBAs and business masters.

What are the criteria of the QS ranking?

QS evaluates universities based on these criteria:

Academic Reputation (40%)

This is easily the most important ranking indicator for QS. To gather this data, QS asks more than 100,000 people working in higher education about the top universities in their fields. It is essentially a large-scale peer review, since respondents are not allowed to nominate their own university. 

“We place a really high importance on this because we believe that academics are the best-placed people to comment on the research excellence or academic excellence of institutions,” Andrew explains. (02:49)

Employer Reputation (10%)

To gather this data, QS sources the opinions of employers all around the world. They are asked to rate the quality of the graduates they recruit from different universities. Along with Academic Reputation, these two sections make up 50% of the QS ranking criteria. This means that half of the methodology is based on opinions from higher education professionals and employers.

Faculty/Student Ratio (20%)

To measure teaching quality, QS uses a quantitative measure: the faculty/student ratio at a university – and the lower, the better. So if a university has 10 students to every faculty member, it would have a faculty/student ratio of 1:10. If another university had more than 10 students for every faculty member, it would receive a lower score in the QS ranking.

Andrew says, “I think it’s a safe assumption that the more staff you have available per student, the more focus and resources you’ve put towards hiring, lecturing, curriculum planning…and everything else that’s required for a student to be led through university by the academic staff.” (05:46)

Citations per Faculty (20%)

The citations per faculty refers to the research output at a school, another quantitative measure. The score is calculated by taking the number of citations received by a university’s research papers over a five-year period and dividing it by the number of faculty at that school. However, it should be noted that the final score is then adjusted depending on the field of research, and different fields are given different weights.

International Faculty Ratio (5%) and International Student Ratio (5%)

These two criteria measure the international outlook of a university. They are based on the percentage of faculty and students with an international background. Along with Faculty/Student Ratio and Citations per Faculty, these criteria make up the other 50% of the QS methodology. This means that half of the methodology is based on quantitative measures and half on qualitative measures (Academic Reputation and Employer Reputation).

Analysis of the 2022 list

The headline of the 2022 ranking is that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retained its number one spot for a record 10th year in a row! However, US universities as a whole slipped down the ranking. The likes of Harvard, Duke, Cornell, and California Institute of Technology all dropped a few places, with more than half of ranked American universities declining in rank.

As Andrew mentions, China and Australia saw an improvement in the ranking of their universities in 2022. Australia’s four top universities – Australian National University (ANU), University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, and University of New South Wales – all climbed the ranking, with ANU now the country’s best at 27th. Meanwhile, this year, Tsinghua University and Peking University became China’s first two universities to break into the global top 20.