Rankings Watch – reputation increasingly driving ranking performance

Posted on Oct 2, 2019

Universities with a strong focus on building reputation are winning the race for global recognition, according to analysis of data from the latest THE World University rankings released in mid-September.

83% of members of the World 100 Reputation Network, which represents leaders in communications and marketing in more than 50 global universities, improved their research or teaching reputation scores (or both) in the THE Rankings.

International reputation is key to progress

The results of the reputation surveys undertaken by THE contribute 33% of the total score in their rankings, and universities are increasingly focused on strategies to improve reputation with international academics, driven in part by the recent W100 research on rankings influencers

Stand-out results for W100 members in the latest rankings included UNSW, which rose 25 places in the overall table to 71 on the back of significant improvements in reputation scores; and Queen Mary University of London, rising 20 places to 110. New member the University of Sussex, also saw a large rise of 15 places, up to 136.

Overall, 44 members of the W100 Network improved their reputation scores, even in some cases where they saw a drop in their overall position in the rankings.

National trends see Canada rising and UK falling

Canadian universities did particularly well in the THE rankings, with Toronto taking top place amongst W100 members, with a rise of 3 places to 18th place overall. UBC, McGill and McMaster all saw improvements in both their overall positions and reputation scores.

A notable feature of the results, released at the THE World Academic Summit in Zurich, was a decline in scores for many UK universities. 18 of the 28 UK institutions ranked in the top 200 have declined since last year.

Looking specifically at W100 members, 7 UK universities saw falls in their reputation scores, reflecting the on-going challenges around Brexit. Some Irish universities also went down significantly in the latest rankings, although UCD managed to improve its reputation scores for both teaching and research.

Asian progress tempered by reputation scores

The seemingly relentless rise of Asian universities in the rankings hit a small blip, with both high-flying NUS (a W100 member) and Tsinghua seeing falls in their overall placings, although Peking rose 7 places into the top 25 overall. Overall Chinese representation in the rankings rose, driven by improvements in citation impact and research income.

However, reputation scores continue to be more of a challenge for Chinese institutions. Of the 12 universities in mainland China and Hong Kong represented in the top 200 of the THE rankings, 10 saw their reputation scores for teaching or research (or both) decline since last year.

What’s next?

The THE World University Rankings are the third of the major global league table to report this year, with US News & World Report Best Global Universities table due next in October. See W100’s analysis on the QS and Shanghai Rankings.

THE will be releasing their Subject Rankings throughout October, and have also set out their thinking about potential changes to the methodology of the rankings, with a consultation launched to get ideas from universities around the world.

For members of the World 100 Reputation Network, January will see the launch of a new approach to measuring global reputation, with the roll-out of a pilot of the W100 International Reputation Tracker. Building on experience with a comprehensive tracking project in the UK over the past 3 years, the International Tracker will measure reputation with 5 key audiences, giving a broader measure of global impact than the rankings which focus predominantly on academic opinion.