A critical comparative analysis of five world university rankings

Henk F. Moed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


To provide users insight into the value and limits of world university rankings, a comparative analysis is conducted of five ranking systems: ARWU, Leiden, THE, QS and U-Multirank. It links these systems with one another at the level of individual institutions, and analyses the overlap in institutional coverage, geographical coverage, how indicators are calculated from raw data, the skewness of indicator distributions, and statistical correlations between indicators. Four secondary analyses are presented investigating national academic systems and selected pairs of indicators. It is argued that current systems are still one-dimensional in the sense that they provide finalized, seemingly unrelated indicator values rather than offering a dataset and tools to observe patterns in multi-faceted data. By systematically comparing different systems, more insight is provided into how their institutional coverage, rating methods, the selection of indicators and their normalizations influence the ranking positions of given institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-990
Number of pages24
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • ARWU ranking
  • Comparative analysis
  • Leiden ranking
  • QS ranking
  • THE ranking
  • U-Multirank
  • University rankings


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