Universities that focus strongly on reputation continue to progress in the global league tables, with more than 60% of the members of the World 100 Reputation Network improving or maintaining their position in the latest QS Rankings.

The methodology of the 2021 QS World University Rankings, published on 8th June, continues to strongly reference academic reputation, which makes up 40% of the total score. Employer reputation contributes a further 10%.

Two-thirds of World 100 Network members improved or maintained their academic reputation scores in the latest table, confirming a trend in recent years for progress in this key metric.

Canada up, Australia down

Canadian universities did particularly well with Toronto, McGill and UBC all improving their academic reputation scores. Universities from the European Union also saw progress, with all Dutch, Irish, Spanish and Nordic W100 members improving their reputation scores.

In contrast, all W100 Australian member universities saw academic reputation score decline, although in most cases the change from 2021 was relatively small.

The picture for UK universities was more mixed, with Glasgow, Exeter, Brimingham Newcastle, Queen’s University Belfast and Aberdeen among the institutions improving their academic scores.

The University of Edinburgh saw significant progress in the overall QS table, rising 4 places to rank 16th in the world. Other significant risers were Melbourne (up 4 to 37th), Amsterdam (up 6 to 55th) and Southampton (rising 13 places to 77th).

Pandemic impact yet to emerge

he Academic Reputation Survey, which drives the reputation scores in the ranking, represents the views of 100,000 respondents around the globe. However, as data is aggregated across 5 years, it is difficult to determine whether the pandemic has had any significant influence on scores.

For example, Johns Hopkins University – with arguably the highest profile of any academic institution during the pandemic – only saw a slight improvement in their academic reputation score in the past year, rising from 86.7 to 87.6. Oxford, also strongly associated with pandemic research, unsurprisingly maintained it’s score of 100 for academic reputation.

Whilst reputation has traditionally been described as a lag factor, we also know from World 100 Network research with global faculty that respondents to the academic reputation surveys do take notice of media coverage in forming their views of other institutions.

So perhaps we can expect to see more reputation–focused changes in the rankings in future years once the pandemic influence works through.