UCL Ranks #8 in the World: What Does it Actually Mean?

UCL Ranks #8 in the World: What Does it Actually Mean?

Kinzah Khan reports on publication of the 2020 World University Rankings, which place UCL at number three in the UK. 

UCL has jumped 2 places in the newly released QS 2020 World University Rankings. Our university has settled comfortably at #8, between Cambridge University (#7) and Imperial College London (#9). Starting as the 4th top global university in 2012, UCL has seen a gradual decline in global reputation over the last 6 years. 2019 was in fact UCL’s lowest position, coming in at 10th in the world. However, it looks like UCL is steadily clawing her way back to the top as we position ourselves back into single digits.

QS has given UCL a glowing biography, naming us a ‘world-leader in research’ and acknowledging the breadth of subjects offered. UCL is only one of four British Universities in the top 10 world ranking, accompanied only by Oxford (#4), Cambridge (#7) and Imperial (#9). This makes us the third best university in the UK and best – yes, number 1 – London based university.

Now, if you are wondering what exactly these statistics are based on, allow me to shed some light on the subject:

QS uses six indicators, each of which is weighted differently in contributing to the overall score. Academic Reputation counts for 40% of the overall score, taking teaching and research quality into its ranking. Given UCL’s global reputation for research, it does not come as a surprise that our academic score is 99.3.

Citations per Faculty and Faculty/Student Ratio come next in weighting, counting for 20% each. Citations per Faculty is pretty similar to the Academic Reputation indicator in that it measures teaching and research. It differs in that it is a metric of institutional research quality, calculated by totalling the number of citations received by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members. Essentially, while Academic Reputation measures quality, Citations per Faculty measures quantity. This is our lowest score (76.7), but for context, Cambridge came in with 74.2 and Imperial score 72.1. This makes sense given we generally prioritise quality over quantity.

Faculty/Student Ratio (also 20%) is more important than you may think and serves as an important measure of teaching quality. This measurement records the extent to which institutions can support students with lectures, tutorials and office hours. It’s basically a measurement of how well departments assist your learning. Given the size of UCL, it is remarkable that we scored 98.1.

The final three measurements are employer reputation (10%, score 98.7), International Faculty (5%, 99.1) and International Students (5%, 100). In summary, UCL’s teaching and research is top quality. So, when someone says to you ‘#8 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good university’, you can explain that 80% of the ranking is actually based on academics. We also have excellent preparation for future employment and are incredibly international (but we didn’t need QS to tell us that!)

Although we didn’t manage to top the global overall university rankings, a special shout out has to be made to the Bartlett School of Architecture. It was announced earlier this year that the Bartlett comes in at #1 in the world for their department category. The Bartlett Summer Show opens soon, so head over to Gordon Street to see what gave them their reputation.

Rankings of course vary depending on the indicators included – let us not forget that once student satisfaction comes into the mix, most London Universities drop a few places. Having said that, if the list took location into account, UCL might even reach top 5. They are, of course, not the primary basis on which to rate the university we go to.

Having said that, being able to say we graduated from the 8th best university in the world, 3rd best in the UK and #1 in London, makes the £9K, endless nights in the Student Centre, overcrowding in the library and 8am expeditions to the ExCel centre a little bit more worth it.

Image Credits: Kinzah Khan