On October 12, Times Higher Education (THE) published its World University Rankings 2023 Report. U of T ranked 18 out of 1,799 universities across 104 countries, a spot it has maintained for four consecutive years. 

Claire Baumforth, the THE marketing director, wrote in an email to The Varsity that THE World University Rankings “judge research-intensive universities across all their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook.” Knowledge transfer refers to the process that allows information — including research results, scientific findings, technology, and data — to be accessed by different stakeholders.

This annual ranking is done in partnership with Elsevier, an academic publishing company in Amsterdam.

How THE ranks universities

Thirty per cent of a university’s THE rank is based on its number of citations, 18 per cent on a reputational survey, six per cent on research income, and six per cent on research productivity.

THE considers citations a separate category outside of their “research” criteria. 

U of T received a score of 92.8 on citations and a 93.3 on research out of 100 from THE’s rankings. In 2020–2021, U of T amassed $1.45 billion in research funds. 

An additional 30 per cent of the ranking criteria is based on teaching. Some of the factors that THE uses to rank a university’s teaching abilities are the student satisfaction survey, doctorates-awarded-to-academic-staff ratio, staff-to-student ratio, and institutional income.

Baumforth wrote, “The focus of the World University Rankings has always been on Research. Teaching-focused rankings usually rely on a student satisfaction survey, which is difficult to conduct on a global scale.” 

In 2018, U of T hit its lowest ranking to date, coming in at 22nd. It peaked in 2011 at 17th. 

Other university rankings

The THE ranking follows the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University 2023 Rankings that was published in June 2022. In THE’s ranking, Peking University ranked 17th, one place above U of T. In comparison, QS placed Peking University in 12th spot, whereas U of T was placed 34th overall. 

According to QS, U of T is eighth overall for undergraduate programs, but 175th for postgraduate programs. U of T placed 16th for ranking by subject, and 21st in graduate employability rankings. 

QS’s ranking criteria differs from THE as QS focuses on academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio, international students ratio, international research network, and employment outcomes. 

In this year’s QS rankings, U of T dipped from its ranking of 26th in 2022. 

Changes to THE’s university ranks next year

Last year, Elsevier carried out the Global Academic Reputation Survey, which is different from the reputation survey conducted for the research category. The Global Academic Reputation Survey is by invitation only and only accessible to experienced, published scholars for comment on perceived prestige in teaching. For the 2023 rankings, Elsevier conducted the survey in house.

The result is that THE is now able to obtain a larger sample of published scholars as direct respondents to this survey.

For the 2024 list, THE plans to lessen the importance of citations for institutions that have an abundance of highly cited papers. This aims to make the rankings fairer to up-and-coming institutions. THE will also adjust how it measures international outlook and knowledge transfer.