World’s Best Colleges and Universities Methodology

We evaluate 6 indicators to determine which universities are the most internationally appealing.


U.S. News & World Report's first-ever World's Best Colleges and Universities rankings are based on data from the THE-QS World University Rankings. The ratings are produced in association with QS Quacquarelli Symonds, one of the world's leading networks for top careers and education.

The World's Best Colleges and Universities rankings were developed to present a multifaceted view of the relative strengths of the world's leading universities. Weightings are decided by the Times Higher Education and are based on its opinion of the importance of the measured criteria balanced against the effectiveness of the indicator to evaluate the intended measure. The overall Top 200 Universities Worldwide, the Top 30 Asian Universities, the Top 30 European Universities, the Top 20 Canadian Universities, and the Top 20 Australian and New Zealand Universities rankings are compiled based on five distinct indicators. This table illustrates the weights that were used and a brief explanation of each of the ranking indicators.

Ranking Indicator Explanation of Ranking Indicator Weighting of Ranking Indicator
Academic Peer Review Composite score drawn from peer review survey (which is divided into five subject areas). 6,354 responses in 2008. 40%
Employer Review Score based on responses to employer survey. 2,339 responses in 2008. 10%
Student-to-Faculty Ratio Score based on student-to-faculty ratio 20%
Citations per Faculty Member Score based on research performance factored against the size of the research body 20%
International Faculty Score based on the proportion of international faculty at the schools 5%
International Students Score based on the proportion of international students at the school 5%

Academic Peer Review

The academic peer review is the centerpiece of the U.S. News World's Best Colleges rankings and is based on an online survey distributed to academics worldwide. Results are compiled based on three years' worth of responses totaling 6,354 in 2008. Respondents are not permitted to submit their own institution or to respond more than once (their latest response is counted). Weightings are applied both geographically and by discipline to ensure as fair a representative spread as possible.

Employer Review

Similar to the academic peer review, this indicator is based on a global online survey, this time distributed to employers. Results are again based on three years' worth of "latest response" data. Geographical weightings are again applied to ensure fair representation from the different regions of the world.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

Faculty-student ratio is used in many ranking systems and evaluations in the world, and while it may not be a perfect measure of teaching quality, it is the most globally available and accessible measure of commitment to teaching. The ratio is an indicator to determine whether a given institution has sufficient staff to teach its students.

Citations per Faculty Member

Citations are a widely used conventional measure of research strength. A citation is a reference to one academic publication in the text of another. The more citations a publication receives, the better it is perceived to be, the more highly cited papers a university publishes, the stronger it can be considered to be. As a measure, this criterion is somewhat geared toward scientific and technical subjects, which is why it doesn't carry more weight in these rankings. The source used in this evaluation is Scopus, the world's largest abstract and citation database of research literature. The latest five complete years of data are used. The total citation count is factored against the number of faculty in order to take into account the size of the institution.

International Factors

In today's increasingly globalized world, the most successful universities have to attract the world's best students and faculty. Simple evaluations of the proportion of international students and the proportion of international faculty serve as indicators of an institution's international attractiveness.