Graduate Employability Rankings: the Best University for Getting a Job

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6000By Rachel Hall for the Guardian

Three UK universities are among the top 20 in the world for graduate employability, according to a ranking by higher education think tank QS.

California’s Stanford University retained its top spot in the ranking, which is in its second year. Meanwhile, the University of Cambridge, the UK’s highest-ranking institution, slipped down a place this year to number 6. The University of Oxford holds onto its place at 8 and UCL enters the top 20 at number 17.

A further three UK institutions make the top 50, with Imperial College London falling nine places to 29, the University of Manchester at 33 and the University of Bristol at 50. The University of Edinburgh slips out of the top 50 at 60.

Outside of the leading 10, where the US claims five spots, the rankings include a relatively diverse range of universities from across the world. Australian universities perform particularly well, with two – the universities of Sydney and Melbourne – in the top 10. The other nation represented in the top 10 is China, although Tsinghua University has dropped seven places this year to the tenth spot.

Ben Sowter, research director at QS, says that the key takeaway from the rankings this year is that “employability is about more than prestige and selectivity”, since institutions which have prioritised achieving strong graduate outcomes score highly, regardless of reputation.


As well as looking at graduate employment rates, universities’ scores are calculated on employer reputation, partnerships with employers, presence of employers on campus, and alumni outcomes. Each category is weighted differently to reflect its importance to students.

The table below shows the top 100 universities with the overall total for 2018.

American University of Beirut Breaks in the top 50 in the Latest QS Employability Rankings

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AUBBy Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team

QS published this week its second Graduate Employability Rankings, after a pilot edition in 2015.

The top ten universities were dominated by the United States with Stanford, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Harvard claiming the top three positions, respectively.

Fourteen universities from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates made the latest rankings.

Lebanon’s American University of Beirut (AUB) broke into the top 50, and ranked among elite universities at the 41st position in the world. It is the first time a University in the Arab region breaks into any rankings's top 50.

The closest ranked institution in the region is at the 201-250 position.

Egypt was the most represented country in the rankings with four institutions in the top 500, followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with three each. Lebanon had two institutions while Jordan and Kuwait have one each.

The American University of Beirut scored a total of 72 points with an impressive 99.8 score for graduate employability rate. AUB also scored 81 for alumni outcomes, an analysis of “more than 30,000 of the world’s most innovative, creative, wealthy, entrepreneurial, and/or philanthropic individuals to establish which universities are producing world-changing individuals.”

The Global University Employability Rankings are based on five indicators that were updated this year along with their corresponding weights. The metrics include an employer reputation metric (30%) which is based on over 30,000 responses to the QS Employer Survey that asks employers to identify “those institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative, effective graduates.” 

The rankings also use an alumni outcomes metric (25%) that measures the ability of universities to produce highly successful and visible alumni in addition to partnerships with employers per faculty metric (25%); an employer/student connections metric (10%) that measures employers interest in campus activity, and a graduate employment rate metric (10%) that measures the proportion of graduates in full or part time employment within 12 months of graduation.

Tempest in the Rankings Teapot – An African Perspective

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africaBy D. Teferra for University World News

It is that season when ranking entities announce their 'findings' on the comparative stature of the world’s universities. As usual, the 'premier' universities remain at the top and the rest are relegated to the bottom – African universities in particular. The 'rankers' go about their business, some with audacity, but too often without sufficient concern for veracity, authenticity or integrity in their methodologies and, especially in the case of Africa, without sufficient data.

Facts vs perceptions

For the last three years, the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa has been the first in the country in academic productivity, as measured by the Department of Higher Education and Training. The department undertakes the task of ranking using parameters that meticulously measure research and academic outputs.

Yet, according to the QS World University Rankings released in June – which allocates 60% of the criteria to academic reputation – the University of KwaZulu-Natal now stands below six other South African universities. This points to a glaring tension between data and dubious assessment based on reputation.

Building reputation – Unpacking the numbers

The QS ranking is a mix of survey responses and data across six indicators, compiled and weighted to formulate a final score. It claims that over 70,000 academics and 30,000 employers contribute to the rankings through the QS global surveys. QS states that it analyses 99 million citations from 10.3 million papers before 950 institutions are ranked.

The Times Higher Education, or THE, states that their methodology is a unique piece of research that involves “questionnaires [that] ask over 10,500 scholars from 137 countries about the universities they perceive to be best for teaching and research”. It claims that the Academic Reputation Survey “uses United Nations data as a guide to ensure that the response coverage is as representative of world scholarship as possible”.

THE goes on to state that where countries were over- or underrepresented, the responses were weighted to “more closely reflect the actual geographical distribution of scholars”, throwing more uncertainty on the changing parameters of the rankings.

There appears to be a conflation between 'world of scholarship' and 'geographical distribution of scholars', without any clear definition of 'scholar' or 'scholarship'. China, India and Brazil may have the largest number of 'scholars' and by that account more scholarship, yet they barely make it to the top in the rankings.

According to THE, only 2% of the survey participants are Africans, presumably located on the continent. As about 50% of research in Africa is undertaken in South Africa, one may presume that the number of survey participants in the rest of Africa tapers off to 1%.

Around 100 academics in Africa, then, outside of South Africa, participated in the reputation index “evenly spread across academic disciplines”. Thus, for the 11 disciplines considered in the THE rankings, that would mean about 10 responses per discipline from Africa. A similar problem is presented in the Latin American and Middle Eastern contexts, which see survey representation of 5% and 3%, respectively.

Rankings indices

Indeed, rankings are largely about reputation. According to QS, reputation is a calculation with 40% derived from the responses of academics and 20% from employers. An institution improves its position in the rankings if it scores big in these two indices based on perception. The THE reputation index is entirely based on a perception survey which requests subjects “to name no more than 15 universities that they believe are the best”.

The reasons why the world, especially Africa, would be well served to ignore these rankings are numerous. Let us consider the QS ranking, which puts considerable weight on student-faculty ratio. Without exception, the African higher education sector is expanding massively, as is the case in many other areas of the world.

This has resulted in high student-staff ratios, which may force institutions to face difficult choices if improving their standing in the rankings is important to them – either freezing expansion or raising the number of academics. Increasing the number of academics would require massive investments, creative policies, and long-term commitments that few institutions are positioned to contemplate.

Another parameter used in the rankings is international faculty ratio and international student ratio. In Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa and Botswana, and to some extent Namibia, are the only countries that attract international faculty, mostly from elsewhere on the continent. This remains a dream for the rest of Africa. The same could be said about most developing countries.

Likewise, improving the percentage of international students is another ranking criterion used by QS and others. The number of African countries that attract international students is very small and includes South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Virtually all of these international students come from other African countries, with the exception of South Africa. Even when students enrol from overseas, it is only for a semester or two.

The nature of these rankings is such that the institutions at the top are mostly from the United States, year in and year out. In reviewing the ranking published by THE, the same could be said about those in the middle and at the lower end on the global list, where some may have moved up a notch and others moved down a notch.

Emphasising reputation-based criteria does not affect the standing of those established at the top. These institutions tend to be immune from strikes, financial strain, internal strife or other critical challenges faced by institutions in the developing world.

Manipulating the rankings

Some enterprising entities, calling themselves data analysts, are already emerging to 'help' African institutions do better in the rankings. One flagship university in East Africa is suspected of pursuing that approach, for which it is reported to have paid a hefty service fee. The rankers themselves have now started selling their expertise to institutions, claiming to provide a 'branding' service for a fee.

This emerging development adds another twist to this already flawed exercise – conflict of interest. The aggressive positioning of these entities masquerading as service providers – often at major events, where senior institutional administrators meet – is nothing more than a swindle. Institutions should use their limited resources effectively, rather than pursue shortcuts to improve their rankings.

The quest for quality regimes

The global marketplace for higher education is exploding with a plethora of new and old, bona fide and dubious players and providers. Accordingly, the scope, mode, platform and practices of educational delivery have diversified tremendously, increasingly necessitating the need for reliable – and trustworthy – quality regimes.

As a consequence, numerous quality agencies are being established at the national and regional levels. For instance, more than half of the African countries now have national authorities regulating higher education quality – with various levels of effectiveness.

As the higher education sector continues to diversify, there is a great need for such entities at the global level. The ranking agencies are supposed to be these gatekeepers of quality at the global level; but they have so far not lived up to that expectation.

Over a year ago, I received a phone call from a vice-chancellor at a university in South Africa who suggested coordinating a withdrawal from the rankings by the country’s institutions. The proposal was to encourage all universities in the country to refuse to participate and instead to dedicate all their resources, energy and time to more relevant concerns.

Rhodes University, one of the premier universities in South Africa, already refuses to participate in the rankings, so a precedent exists.

An international roundtable on rankings, supported by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia, took place in May 2017 in Vancouver, Canada. The roundtable deliberated on the scope and significance of university rankings and proposed concrete actions and interventions on the issue in the future.


According to THE, “the reputation league table is based on nothing more than subjective judgment”. QS also states that 60% of its scores are dependent on reputation, and are thus subjective. What is depressingly astonishing, however, is how seriously the world of higher education (and beyond) takes these self-serving businesses, which use defective and flawed instruments year in and year out.

Rankings will not be disappearing anytime soon. In fact, as additional rankings join the fray, they are likely to generate more buzz to ensure their survival and influence.

But it is not inconceivable that the proliferation of these rankers may be the beginning of the end of their huge influence – as institutions pick and choose particular rankers which present them in a favourable manner. In the end, institutions at the very top and the massive bottom of the rankings will continue to watch the ritual from the sidelines, while the tempest continues undeterred in the rankings teapot.

Damtew Teferra is professor of higher education, leader of Higher Education and Training Development, and founding director of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This article was first published in the current edition of International Higher Education.

THE World University Rankings 2018: Top Arab Universities

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wur 2018 0By Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team

Times Higher Education (THE) released the 14th annual edition of the world university rankings on September 5, 2017.

The latest edition features a total of 1,000 institutions, representing no more than 5 per cent of the 20,000 or so higher education institutions in the world.

Times Higher Education, which compiles the rankings, said that margins were extremely tight at the top, with all the top-ranked institutions excelling against measures in teaching, research, citations, international outlook and income.

This year, the top two spots went to two British universities, Oxford and, up from fourth place, the University of Cambridge. Stanford remained at No. 3, tied with the California Institute of Technology, which was bumped down a space this year. Harvard landed at No. 6, and Cal, previously tied for No. 10, surprisingly dropped all the way down to No. 18. 

A key factor in the rankings is research income and Oxford and Cambridge saw significant increases in their total institutional income - up 24% and 11% respectively while their nearest rivals, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University saw falls in income.

At the regional level, the latest edition witnessed an increase in the number of top-ranked Arab universities to 31.  King Abdulaziz University (201-250) is now the undisputed top Arab university, followed by Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUST) a(301-350).

The Khalifa University of Science and Technology was established by presidential decree in early 2017 through the merger of the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (Kustar), Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and the Petroleum Institute.

Qatar’s national university jumped nearly 100 spots to the 401-500th position, up from the 501-600 position.

However, the university that moved up the most was Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), which leaped from the 601-800 in 2017 to the 401-500th position in 2018, tied with Qatar University.

The American University of Beirut came in the fifth position, tied with Alfaisal University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Saud University, and the United Arab Emirates University.

Egypt, on the other hand, was the most represented country in the rankings with nine institutions, followed by Saudi Arabia with five. Jordan and Morocco have three while the United Arab Emirates has four. Tunisia has two while Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman and Algeria each has one institution on the list.

The latest rankings reflect the United Arab Emirates ability to attract students and staff from outside their borders. United Arab Emirates University and American University of Sharjah reached the top 15 in the international outlook pillar.

Qatar on the other hand, has used full scholarships to attract top performers. In fact, 40 percent of the student body at Qatar University are international students on scholarships.

All the universities in the top four are in the Middle East, while universities situated in North Africa – including universities from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria – feature further down the list.

The THE World University Rankings 2018 are based on 13 performance indicators that are grouped into five areas: teaching (30%), research (30%), citations (30%), International outlook (7.5%), and industry income (2.5%). 

In finding the top 1,000 universities in the world, the Times' annual study considers 13 "carefully calibrated performance indicators" across five areas: teaching (the learning environment); research (volume, income, reputation); citations (research influence); international outlook (staff, students and research); and industry income (knowledge transfer).

Points awarded are weighted, with teaching, research and citations each being worth 30 percent, international outlook being worth 7.5 percent, and industry income being worth 2.5 percent. They have all been evaluated by their academic peers through THE’s annual Academic Reputation Survey, which draws on more than 20,000 survey responses from senior scholars from more than 140 countries.  The points allotted per area are then independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers for accuracy.

In general, institutions in developing countries are held back when it comes to their reputation for teaching and their research and citation impact. Prestige takes many years to acquire and tends to be bestowed some time after the achievements it marks have been accomplished

Culture Clash – National vs International Publishing in Syria

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29up conference superJumboBy Rami Ayoubi and Hiba Massoud for University World News

Syria generally publishes less international indexed research than its counterparts in the Middle East. Between 1996 and 2014, Syria was ranked 101 out of 239 countries considered by the SCImago rankings with 5,151 international indexed published research documents.

Breaking the figure down, from 1996 to 2001, Syria’s overall international ranking was 98, but from 2002 to 2010 it fell to 102 and since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, it has risen slightly to 100.

The rankings show a steady number of international documents and citations for the period from 1996 until 2001 and a progressive increase from 2001 to early 2011. Surprisingly, the number of indexed international documents and citations of Syrian higher education institutions has continued to rise since 2011 when the Syrian crisis began. Why is that?


The link between higher education and research is very strong in Syria. The majority of that research is done at universities and 100% of the funds come from the government. There are only a few independent research institutions responsible for carrying out research in the country and these are funded by the government.

Most research is done in Arabic, with very little being done in other languages. On average, 95% of research done by a lecturer at a Syrian university is written in Arabic. The other 5% accounts for international indexed published research and is written in other languages, mainly English.

Until the late 1990s, all aspects of research and teaching at higher education institutions in Syria were conducted in Arabic.

The Syrian government, supervised by the National Leadership of the Baath Party, plays a major role in the supervision and control of the higher education system through the Ministry of Higher Education and the Higher Education Council, based at the Ministry of Higher Education.

A government committee called the University Admissions Committee, which is headed by the prime minister and functions in consultation with universities and the Ministry of Higher Education, determines the number of students to be admitted to the higher education system each year and their distribution.

The entry level for all undergraduate programmes in Syrian universities is the General Secondary Education Certificate or Bakaloria, which is taught in Arabic, except for one module in the English language. French was added to the Bakaloria system during the first decade of the 2000s.

In principle, each student passing the General Secondary Education Exams is eligible for a place in the Syrian higher education system. This ‘Open Door’ policy was adopted by the Syrian government in the early 1970s and is still in operation.

Across all faculties Arabic and English language modules are compulsory modules taught in the first two years. In order to acquire a bachelor degree, a four-year bachelor degree student has to pass 52 modules and a five-year bachelor degree student has to pass 64, with only four modules being taught in other languages, either English or French.

The rise of English and French

From 2000, with the support of the National Leadership of the Baath Party, the new president, Bashar al-Assad, who was partly educated in England and whose wife is a British citizen, began establishing private schools and universities in the country and other languages became more prominent in the Syrian higher education sector. Since then, in addition to Arabic, both English and French have become popular in higher education institutions.

This trend was accompanied by a government policy of developing the capacities of Syria’s higher education system in cooperation with Western counterparts, mainly France, the United Kingdom and Germany. Over the first decade of the 2000s, Damascus University, for example, signed and was involved in memoranda of understanding, projects and agreements with hundreds of universities and higher education institutions in Western countries.

Based on the government’s policy of rewarding talented graduates, these students were automatically appointed as teaching assistants at universities and were later sponsored by their institutions to study abroad. Thousands of Syrian students are now studying at European universities, mainly in France, Germany and the UK, after having obtained their masters and PhD qualifications.

There are issues over fair access to these rewards, but the main aim of the policy was that, once they were back in Syria, they would contribute to the social, economic and political development of the proposed new Syria.

However, most of these students, with some exemptions, were seen as the most talented in their generation and were regarded as being potential future leaders. Most proved, when they returned home, that they had the ability to compete with their international counterparts in the domain of academic publishing in languages other than Arabic.

Conflicting Approaches

Until mid-2005, PhD holders from so-called ‘socialist countries’, mainly the former USSR, had dominated the academic scene in Syria as a result of ideological and political support from the former USSR to the previous president of Syria.

However, the new PhD holders are studying mainly in Western countries, changing the balance of the academic scene.

By the end of 2011, there were more PhD holders from Western countries than from the former USSR. While the number of academics returning to Syria from Western universities during the crisis has fallen significantly, it is estimated that around 20% have gone back.

Surprisingly, despite European sanctions on the Syrian government and on most Syrian public bodies, this approach of relying on PhD holders from Western countries has continued, while at the same time the old socialist PhD holders have maintained ideological control of universities, in large part because of the close links between universities and government over key appointments in the Ministry of Higher Education and the Office of Education and Higher Education attached to the General Leadership of the Baath Party.

This dynamic has brought conflict over academic publication. While the old socialists tend to believe more in national and traditional methods of publishing academic research, the new returners tend to believe more in international and new ways of publishing academic research.

This contradiction is reflected in the academic journals they aim to publish in. While the former tend to publish in local, Arabic journals, the latter tend to publish in international, English-language journals. Each group thinks its own strategy is the best.

This contradiction has led to increased competition between the two groups. While the competitive advantage of the old socialists lies in publishing at the local level, the competitive advantage of those who have studied in Western countries lies in publishing at the international level. This competition is regarded as one of the major reasons for the steady increase in international publications, even during the crisis.

A recent report produced by the National Erasmus+ Office in Syria and co-funded by the European Commission, found that almost all of the top 1,000 international Syrian researchers who are currently working for Syrian higher education institutions are PhD holders from Western countries.

Who Wins?

Both parties claim to be winning the ideological and publications battle. The Eastern academics claim that the number of local Arabic published research documents is outstripping the international English published research, at least in Syria. The Western academics claim that the international English published research is of much higher quality than the research published locally in Arabic.

While the Eastern academics claim quantity and locality of publications as proof of their superiority, the Western academics cite quality and the international reach of their publications.

Any external observer to the academic scene in Syria would note that both parties are right. However, it is difficult for either side to agree any notional parity between the two trends – it must be left to an impartial body to decide who is the ‘true’ winner in the ideological battle over Syrian academic publishing.

Dr Rami M Ayoubi is senior advisor at Cardiff Metropolitan University, United Kingdom, and Dr Hiba K Massoud is senior lecturer at Coventry University, UK.

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