What are university rankings - and do they matter?

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Prodigy Finance - May, 01 2024

3 min read

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At Prodigy Finance, we're committed to helping international talent to achieve their education dreams. We offer international student loans to qualified individuals attending top master's programmes in the US.

University rankings are an important tool that provides students, like yourselves, institutions, and governments with valuable information to help them make informed decisions about higher education. They provide a way to compare institutions, benchmark performance, identify areas for improvement, and promote a culture of excellence.

One of the main reasons university rankings are important is that they provide a way for you, as an international student, to compare different institutions and make informed decisions about where to attend college. Rankings can play a crucial role in attracting international students and promoting a country’s higher education system abroad.

Rankings take into account a wide range of factors, including academic reputation, research output, and graduation rates, which allows you to compare schools based on the factors that are most important. This can be especially helpful for those who are considering colleges that may not be well-known in their local area or even country.

Another reason university rankings are useful is that they provide valuable information for educators and researchers. By evaluating universities based on their research output, rankings can help educators and researchers identify the institutions that are making the most significant contributions to their field. This can be especially valuable for educators who are looking for institutions to collaborate with on research projects, or for researchers who are looking for institutions that provide grants and funding for particular research projects.

Understanding university rankings

What are university rankings?

University rankings are lists of universities that are evaluated according to various factors such as academic reputation, research output, faculty-to-student ratio, compared, allocated a score and ranked from highest to lowest. These rankings aim to provide a comparative assessment of universities worldwide.

Some of the most well-known ranking systems include the QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

Criteria used in rankings

Several criteria are used when assessing academic institutions. These may include academic reputation, which reflects the perceived quality of a university's teaching and research; employer reputation, indicating how well graduates are regarded by employers; student-to-faculty ratio, which measures the level of individual attention students receive; and research impact, which assesses the influence of a university's research output.

The Pros and Cons of following the University Rankings

The pros of university rankings

Guidance in selection

University rankings can help you narrow down your choices from a vast array of global universities. By providing a standardised assessment of institutions, rankings offer guidance in the decision-making process.

Indicator of quality

Rankings can be used to measure the quality of education, faculty, and research opportunities available at a university. Higher-ranked universities often offer more resources, better facilities, and a stronger academic community.

The cons of university rankings

Limitations in measurement

While rankings provide valuable insights, they may not capture every aspect of a university experience. For example, they may overlook factors such as campus culture, student support services, or diversity, all elements that differ in importance from individual to individual.

Overemphasis on prestige

Focusing solely on rankings can lead to overlooking important considerations such as personal fit or specific programme strengths. It's essential to look beyond prestige and consider factors that align with your individual goals and preferences.

The international student perspective

Beyond the rankings

As an international student, it’s worthwhile to consider factors beyond rankings, such as the cultural fit, language barriers, availability of support services and overall student experience.

Real-life student experiences

Many international students weigh university rankings alongside personal experiences and recommendations from peers. Some prioritise factors like location, language of instruction, or specific program offerings over rankings alone.

Making an informed choice

Balancing rankings with personal goals

While rankings can be useful, it's important to balance their significance with your personal academic and career goals. Choosing a university that aligns with your individual aspirations is crucial to enjoy a fulfilling academic experience.

Additional factors to consider

Don’t forget to consider the location, cost of living, alumni network, internship opportunities, and extracurricular activities alongside the academic factors.


University rankings offer valuable insights into the global academic landscape, but they shouldn’t be the sole determining factor when you choose a university. By considering your personal goals, preferences, and practical considerations alongside the rankings, you’re able to make informed decisions that lead to a fulfilling and successful academic journey.


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