QS stars
How do QS stars enable universities to outshine competitors? Source: Martin Adams/Unsplash

Cementing a hall of fame for universities around the world, in recent years, the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Star rating system has surged in notoriety.

Following a rating of 0 to 5+ stars, this system is an opt-in service for universities and an opportunity for them to outshine others with their showcase of strengths.

But if you’re wondering how the QS Stars help you to understand which universities have performed well, here are a few essential factors you should know about the rating:

The 12 constellations of QS Stars

Composed of 12 categories, the QS Star rating system has selected key pillars of what makes a world-class university, considering several factors that are often overlooked in university rankings and other assessments.

Core criteria

(1) Teaching, (2) Employability, (3) Research, (4) Internationalization

“Every university undergoing QS Stars is assessed in each of the four core criteria categories. Teaching looks at the faculty-to-student ratio and levels of student satisfaction with teaching, while Employability measures the success of graduates in finding jobs and the university in helping them. Research looks at an institution’s commitment to research, while Internationalization shows how international a university is, based on the number and mix of international students and faculty it has, as well as the number and strength of international partnerships with other universities.”

Learning environment

(5) Facilities, (6) Online/Distance Learning

“Each university must choose one of the learning environment categories. Facilities evaluates universities based on the quality of its facilities including sports, medical and library facilities, student societies, student accommodation and IT infrastructure. Online/Distance Learning looks at various indicators of a university’s online programs such as student services and technology, track record, student faculty engagement, student interaction, and reputation of the university.”

Advanced criteria

(7) Arts & Culture, (8) Innovation, (9) Social Responsibility, (10) Inclusiveness

“Institutions are assessed in at least two of the four advanced criteria categories. Arts & Culture is intended for those universities with a strong commitment to the arts and cultural activities. Innovation measures how universities are driving industry through industry and innovation, particularly in areas such as science and technology, and the links it has with the non-academic world. Social Responsibility looks at how seriously a university takes its obligations to society through volunteer projects, investments in the local community, and environmental awareness. Inclusiveness assesses the accessibility of the university FAQs to students, particularly at scholarships and bursaries, disability access, gender balance and low-income outreach.”

Specialist criteria

(11) Subject Ranking, (12) Program Strength

“The specialist criteria categories highlight a university’s specialist subject. In Subject Ranking the institution is measured based on its top performance in the QS World University Rankings by Subject, and by how many accreditations the university has in that subject area. In Program Strength the university selects its own specialist degree program and is assessed across a wide variety of indicators, such as the rate of student satisfaction, the student/faculty ratio, and the graduate employment rate for students on the specialist program.”

Do some universities shine brighter than others with the QS stars? Source: Rad Pozniakov/Unsplash

After the QS Stars audit of the twelve categories, universities are awarded an overall ‘Star result’ which ranges from 0 to 5+ stars.

This then allows you to understand not only how the university performs overall but, most importantly, how it performs in the specific areas that interest you.

So, if you’re looking for a university that offers high-quality online learning, you can check its QS Star result and see how well it scored.

Or, if you’re focused on arts and culture, the star system will mirror how committed a university is to its creative talent.

One of many university ranking systems out there, this is a great way to cluster awarded stars together.

*For further information about the QS Star rating system, click here to see the FAQ leaflet or click here to see the QS Stars university ratings.

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