How do we judge the five subject areas—Arts & Humanities, Engineering & IT, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences—for the U.S. News World's Best Colleges and Universities rankings, which are based on data from the THE-QS World University Rankings produced in association with QS Quacquarelli Symonds?
Subject area rankings are solely based on the results from an academic peer review survey. Early in that survey process, respondents are asked to identify their broad faculty area of knowledge from five areas: Arts & Humanities; Engineering & IT; Life Sciences & Biomedicine; Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. Academics then rate schools in the subject area or areas where they have broad knowledge. Respondents are able to nominate more than one faculty area and, as a result, the total adds up to more than 100 percent. Those five subject area ratings are then compiled to produce the separate rankings in each of the subject areas.
For each subject area, a regional weighting is applied to ensure equal representation from our three "super regions": the Americas; Europe, Middle East, and Africa; and Asia Pacific. In 2007, for the first time, respondents were not allowed to select their own institution. In 2008, the questions respondents were asked regarding universities inside and outside their own country were separated. The results were then recombined using methods designed to reduce any response bias by country.
The final subject area rankings have been compiled based on three years' worth of responses from academics around the world to an online survey. The names that are surveyed are obtained from two key databases: the World Scientific, from which 180,000 E-mail addresses are drawn, and the International Book Information Service (IBIS), a service from Mardev. The total number of respondents considered for the 2008 results (including those from 2007 and 2006 who have not updated their responses) was 6,354.