Bias In Times Higher Education Ranking Of The Worlds Top Universities

The Times Higher Education and Quacquarelli Symonds THE-QS have just published the 2009 ranking of the Worlds Top Universities. We compared the ranking of the Worlds Top-25 Universities according to THE-QS with the 2008 Academic Ranking of World Universities ARWU.

Overall ranking: THE-QS 2009 versus ARWU 2008

The overall overlap of the two rankings is 72%, with 18 of the World’s Top-25 universities appearing in both the THE-QS and ARWU rankings. This means there are seven universities (more than one in four) that do not appear in each of the other lists.

THE-QS has many more British Universities than ARWU

There are twice as many British universities in the THE-QS ranking of the World’s Top-25 universities than in the ARWU. THE-QS finds that six (24%) of the World’s Top-25 universities are British compared to three (8%) for ARWU.

The difference is particularly striking for the Worlds Top-5 universities, where there are four British Universities in the THE-QS (University of Cambridge [2nd], University College London [4th], Imperial College London [5th] and University of Oxford [5th]) compared to only one for the ARWU (University of Cambridge [3rd]).

THE-QS has many fewer public US universities than ARWU

There is only one public US university University of Michigan in the THE-QS ranking compared to six public US universities in the ARWU ranking. The University of California is represented four times in the ARWU ranking (Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco) and not once in the THE-QS ranking.

THE-QS is more international than ARWU

The THE-QS ranking of the World’s Top-25 universities includes more non-US universities than the ARWU ranking: 12 (48%) universities are non-US in THE-QS compared to 7 (28%) in the ARWU. In the THE-QS ranking, six countries are represented: US (13), UK (6), Japan (2), Australia (1), Canada (1), Switzerland (1) and Hong Kong (1). In the ARWU five countries are represented: US (18), UK (3), Japan (2), Switzerland (1) and Canada (1).

Stanford University

It is very striking to see that Stanford University is ranked 2nd in the world according to ARWU and only 16th according to THE-QS.

University of California – Berkeley

It is also striking to see that the University of California – Berkeley is ranked 3rd in the world according to ARWU and 36th according to THE-QS.

University College – London

Finally,University College – London is ranked 4th in the world according to THE-QS compared to only 22nd in the world according to ARWU.


The assessment highlights a number of important differences between the two major rankings of the World’s Top-25 universities. THE-QS, which is a British publication, is a more international ranking but it appears to have a bias for British universities and a bias against public US universities. In addition, two highly ranked universities in ARWU – Stanford (ranked 2nd) and Berkeley (ranked 3rd) – are ranked significantly lower by THE-QS.