Every year, university rankings tend to lead to the same pool of heavyweights – you’re looking at the Ivies, Oxbridge and Russell Group universities generally holding their positions at the top. Chinese universities have recently broken into the elite, but this aside, measuring universities on their research prowess (the usual barometer for rankings) typically reveals no surprises.
But the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2019 offers two novel features that both students and education professionals should consider. Firstly, it claims to show which universities are most likely to go on to be luminaries in their fields.
Secondly, there are noteworthy surprises in its rankings – Waseda University in Tokyo is 208th in the QS World University Rankings but 27th here, while Waterloo in Canada is 28th in this table while sitting at 163rd in the World Rankings.
This is incredibly useful for students, both current and aspiring. After all, who doesn’t want to know whether the time and money invested into a university degree would lead to a solid career?
Rankings are nothing but the methodologies behind them. This explains the elaborate and comprehensive explanations afforded by the biggest names in higher education, striving to avoid controversies like the oft-repeated futility of the UK’s annual National Student Survey.
Add to that the trickiness of predicting employability, which is easily swayed by a large number of factors – from university efforts to the health of national and international labour markets – and it’s easy for us to dismiss yet another ranking about universities producing the most employable graduates. In the face of this, it can look like it really doesn’t matter how innovative QS claims its formula for alumni outcomes to be, or how universities like Waseda and Waterloo perform significantly better here than in World Rankings.
What we’re trying to say is the biggest takeaway for students from the GRE 2019 isn’t the final league table. Instead, it’s the five indicators the ranking is based on that can help us understand what employability really means to a student, university and employers. Think of it as a cheat sheet to getting all the main points in an important essay question. There’s no right or wrong answer, so long as there’s an informed decision made based on these five broad points.
Whether or not one lands a job after graduating is a complex issue, but prospective students can improve their chances by applying to universities with these traits:
1. A good reputation among employers
Who better than to go to than the source itself? In the QS Employer Survey, over 42,000 global recruiters were asked to list the universities they believe to produce the most talented, competent, employable graduates. According to the survey, the University of Cambridge enjoys higher
repute among hiring managers and other employers than any other university in the world.
2. How well alumni are doing
If a university has a higher than usual number of luminaries – business leaders, prize winners or other prominent individuals – in the fields you’re interested in, that’s a really good sign. QS used larger and more diverse lists for this indicator, in which over 2,000 universities in 132 locations had an alumnus on one of the lists. Harvard University had the highest number of graduates who have found success at an early age.
3. The links a university has with employers
Specifically, we’re talking here about research and work placement/internship opportunities. Did the university collaborate with companies to produce citable, transformative research? QS used Elsevier’s Scopus database and reports from companies respectively to determine this. Stanford University performs best within this category.
4. How often employers are on-campus
Six Chinese institutions feature in the top 10 on this measure, with universities that host plenty of employers on-campus through initiatives like career fairs. The Huazhong University of Science and Technology is the world number one for this measure, with the big names in the English-speaking world performing rather poorly.
5. How many graduates are employed
The graduate employment rate represents how many alumni are in work after graduation. QS calculates theirs within a year after graduation, though other universities calculate this within six months or less from graduation. This is a crucial measure – and students can take this further by asking their chosen university what about its rates for high-skilled jobs or those relevant to their fields of study. The Moscow State Institute of International Relations performed the best globally in this measure.