What makes a graduate employable in 2018?
Which university did they graduate from? Source: AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi

The QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2019 is now out, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) taking the first spot for the first time, as well as universities based in California and Australia performing better here than they did in the QS World University Rankings 2019.

Stanford and the University of California, Los Angeles shared the second spot, with Harvard and the University of Sydney rounding up the top five. All achieved scores of 98 and above, with MIT boasting a perfect score of 100. The full results are viewable here.

But what do these positions and scores actually mean? How does a graduate of Tsinghua University explain why his or her school is at ninth position globally with a score of 96?

To understand these and what “graduate employability” really mean in 2018, we need to dig deep into QS’s methodology. These are the five indicators that define a university’s “graduate employability” according to QS:

1. Employer reputation (30 percent)


If the details of the world’s most competent, innovative and effective employees are compiled into one big dataset, we would be able to detect trends and similarities. And one easily detected would be the alma maters where they obtained their qualifications.

This is what the QS Employer Survey set out to do. With over 40,000 responses obtained, QS was able to identify which institutions employers were consistently found to have hired their best employees from.

2. Alumni outcomes (25 percent)

This indicator measures the quantity and quality of a university’s alumni body. More than 30,000 of the world’s most innovative, creative, wealthy, entrepreneurial, and/or philanthropic individuals were analysed to see which universities are producing “world-changing” individuals.

The younger the outstanding alum, the higher the weighting applied to ensure contemporary relevance. Same applies for undergraduate degrees, as it is assumed that the early stages of the higher education learning process are more formative in establishing an individual’s employability.

3. Partnerships with employers per faculty (25 percent)

Another way we can see whether a university is committed to the future careers of its students is through gauging the links it has with their potential employers.

QS took a dual approach for this:

1) Using Elsevier’s Scopus database to establish which universities are collaborating successfully with global companies to produce citable, transformative research; and

2) Analysing the work placement-related partnerships that are reported by institutions and validated by the QS research team.

4. Employer/Student connections (10 percent)

Events like networking drinks and career fairs increase the connection between students and their potential employers. Source: Facebook/Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

What is career-readiness if it didn’t involve any real-world experience dealing with employers during our university years? This can come in the form of internships, externships, research opportunities, networking events with industry figures, participating in career fairs, etc.

QS measured this connection between student and potential employers by summing the number of individual employers who have been actively present on a university’s campus over the past twelve months.

5. Graduate employment rate (10 percent)

The job hunting process for fresh graduates is one subservient to several factors. Economic performance of the country and region they are located in matter, as do the robustness of the particular industries they are applying. However, we can see some universities doing better than others in terms of the number of graduates who manage to land jobs after leaving school.

This is the basis of QS’s last, but simplest indicator which measured the proportion of graduates (excluding those opting to pursue further study or unavailable to work) in full or part-time employment within 12 months of graduation. This is then adjusted with the maximum and minimum values recorded in each country or region.

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