QS Stars explained

When QS World University Rankings first emerged in 2004 they responded to an urgent need: giving a rapidly growing contingent of internationally mobile students a way to form concrete comparisons of university standards across borders.

Yet rankings have their limitations. For one thing, the leading universities that make it into the QS World University Rankings comprise some 5% of higher education institutions worldwide. Rankings naturally focus on elite, research-intensive institutions that have a global reach. But what about the thousands of universities whose strengths lie in other areas; whether that be teaching, on-campus facilities, industry collaboration and innovation, engagement with the local community, or any of the other diverse aspects of university life that lie beyond the scope of international rankings?

QS Stars exists to give students a way of forming impartial, evidence-based comparisons of universities in a greater number of areas than can be covered by rankings. The system is opt-in, meaning an unlimited number of universities can participate – both those high-profile institutions that already feature prominently in rankings, and less well-known universities that nonetheless offer excellent services in other areas.

What is QS Stars?

QS Stars is an evaluation system that assesses universities worldwide using a rating method. Universities are awarded a rating of one to five stars + (the highest rating), depending on their performance within the evaluation.

Universities are evaluated against eight criteria among;

– Research

– Teaching

– Employability

– Facilities

– Internationalization

– Innovation

– Engagement

– Culture

– Access

– Specialist Subject.

Each criterion has its own indicators and weightings.

How do QS Stars help students find an institution?

The simplest way of understanding QS Stars is as a hotel-style rating for universities, giving students a trustworthy third-party assessment of the quality of institutions that they may not have the opportunity to visit and judge for themselves.

However, unlike hotels, universities serve a range of functions that is far too complicated to reduce to a single rating out of five. What makes one university the right choice for a given individual depends on a complex range of factors and circumstances.

For this reason, as well as an overall Star rating out of five, QS Stars rates universities in 8 key areas. Each of these ratings provides students with an insight into a university’s performance in an area that will directly affect their experience.

This allows students to select which aspects of university life are most relevant to them, and gain an objective insight into how a Star-rated university measures up against international standards.

What can you expect from different QS Star ratings?

One Star Universities

A typical One Star university has established all the key components required to provide a quality service to its students and, in many cases, the foundations upon which to build a stronger domestic reputation. A One Star institution will often have been established within the last twenty years and will be putting in place the leadership and ambition to develop quickly.

(Example of a One Star university: Ahmad Dahlan University, Indonesia)

Two Star Universities

A typical Two Stars university is active in research and has an established domestic reputation. The institution is a key part of its local community and will often have begun to consider international opportunities.

(Example of a Two Star university: Bath Spa University, UK)


Three Star Universities

A typical Three Stars university is nationally well recognised, and may have also begun to attract international recognition. This institution maintains a reputable level of research and its graduates are attractive to employers.

(Example of a Three Star university: Murdoch University, Australia)


Four Star Universities

A typical Four Stars university is highly international, demonstrating excellence in both research and teaching. The institution provides an excellent environment for students and faculty.

(Example of a Four Star university: Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico)


Five Star Universities

A typical Five Stars university is generally world class in a broad range of areas, enjoys a high reputation and has cutting edge facilities and internationally renowned research and teaching faculty.

(Example of a Five Star university: Université de Montréal, Canada)


Five Star + Universities

A typical five-star + institution is not just world-class, but an elite destination to which the very best students and faculty worldwide will aspire. Its brand name will transform the résumé of anyone connected with it. Five Stars + can apply equally to the world’s foremost comprehensive and specialist institutions.

(Example of a Five Star + university: Australia National University, Australia)

Which universities use QS Stars?

QS Stars is an opt-in system, meaning participating universities choose to undergo a comprehensive audit, conducted by QS Intelligence Unit. Since the system was launched in 2011, over 150 universities have been or are currently being audited.

Institutions range from world-leading universities such as MIT and Australia National University, to newer, less internationally established universities in countries further off the beaten path.

With new universities opting into the system on a weekly basis, the list of QS Star-rated institutions is continually growing. For example in Australia leading institutions such as Australia National University, University of Queensland, University of New South Wales and Newcastle University are among the many universities to have adopted the system.

A partial list of universities with QS Stars includes:

Stanford University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
University of Chicago
Yale University
Columbia University
Cambridge University
The University of New South Wales
Nanyang Technological University
King’s College London
Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Ohio State University
King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals
Technologico de Monterrey
Swinburne University of Technology
RMIT University
University of Technology Sydney
University of Limerick
University College Cork
University of Canterbury
KTH Royal Institute of Technology
University of Tasmania
Bond University
Amity University
Universitas Bina Nusantara

Students can see how all of the QS Star-rated universities compare at http://www.topuniversities.com/qsstars


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