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### Thriving University Rankings: A Data-driven Perspective

Times Higher Education fundamentally operates as a data-driven entity. The publications we produce rely on data sourced from universities, research papers, and scholars. The services we offer to educational institutions and governments are underpinned by data analytics.

Hence, it is fitting that we evaluate the success of our rankings primarily through data assessment, aligning with the notion that any meaningful discourse on university rankings should be substantiated by data. As the renowned American scholar W. Edwards Deming once remarked: “In God we trust. All others must bring data.”

So, what insights does the data reveal?

Escalating Engagement

The data trends vividly illustrate our expanding impact. For instance, consider our ranking that assesses universities’ advancements towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In its inaugural edition in 2019, 556 universities were ranked; this year, the upcoming release] is anticipated to feature a substantial increase, emphasizing a 287% rise. This surge not only underscores the heightened global dedication of universities towards sustainability but also reflects the rigorous evaluation thereof.

Moreover, feedback from university leaders corroborates this trajectory. It is evident that our assessments not only gauge universities but also impel them towards enhancement; our Impact Rankings have catalyzed universities to intensify their focus on sustainability initiatives.

Academic Recognition

What about the perceptions of academics themselves? Annually, we conduct a survey targeting highly-cited academics active in the past five years, seeking their perspectives on the premier universities within their specialized domains. These responses shape our subject-specific rankings and contribute to our World University Rankings and affiliated assessments.

The escalating number of survey responses indicates academic endorsement, having surged over fivefold since 2021.

Amplified Data Integrity

The upsurge in participation yields a favorable outcome – a substantial augmentation in top-tier data concerning global higher education. Over the recent four years, the data points fueling our in-depth analytics, which are extended to universities and governmental bodies, have multiplied eightfold. This figure excludes the vast pool of over 100 million citations accessible through bibliometric data furnished by our collaborator Elsevier.


The comprehensive data at our disposal unequivocally demonstrates the escalating significance and popularity of our university rankings worldwide, coupled with the mounting esteem accorded to them by academics. Nonetheless, we acknowledge the imperfections inherent in rankings and remain dedicated to a continuous journey of enhancement, in response to the expectations of higher education leaders and ranking advisory panels. Notably, the past year witnessed enhancements to our methodologies, met with favorable reception across the academic domain.

In the words of Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of university rankings are greatly exaggerated.

David Watkins serves as the managing director of data science at Times Higher Education.