University of Zurich withdraws from Times Higher Education ranking

University of Zurich withdraws from Times Higher Education ranking

In a statement, the University of Zurich (UZH) has confirmed that it is pulling out of the annual ranking by Times Higher Education (THE). The university argued that the criteria used in the study - often regarded as one of the most influential university guides in the world - no longer reflect the real quality of teaching.

What is the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking?

First issued in 2004, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings is a publication that rates universities around the world by the quality of their teaching and research output. The report itself uses industry income, diversity of academics and student body, quality of teaching and research output and influence to place each institution in an overall ranking.

Along with the likes of the QS survey, the World University Ranking is one of the most often cited university studies in the world, with many academic institutions proudly displaying their position on the list in university prospectuses and advertising.

UZH claims THE study favours quantity over quality

However, in the statement, the UZH argued that the THE ranking as it is currently constructed “is not able to reflect the wide range of activities in teaching and research undertaken by universities.” They argued that by design and necessity, the ranking focuses on “measurable output, which can have unintended consequences, for example leading universities to concentrate on increasing the number of publications instead of improving the quality of their content.”

As a result of what it described as a focus on quantity over quality, UZH said that it would no longer give THE the data needed to place it on the ranking. For those interested, the University of Zurich came 80th in the study for 2024.

UZH withdrawl the latest in a series of critiques of THE

UZH’s statement joins many institutions that have criticised the ranking in the past. One of the most common claims is that the ranking favours institutions that teach “hard science” over economics and humanities - most notably, this led to a scandal in 2010, when the London School of Economics (LSE) complained that they had been dropped to 86th in the world, despite their high position in other university rankings.

Concerns have also been raised over whether the ranking has a bias towards English-speaking institutions, as the report uses academic citations as part of the ranking, and the easiest citations to find are in English. The last organised opposition to the ranking came in 2021 when seven Indian universities boycotted the report over a "lack of transparency" after no Indian institution made the top 300.

Times Higher Education argues their processes are transparent

In response to the boycott, THE editorial director Phil Baty told the Indian Express that their “ranking system is based entirely on a relationship of trust and transparency with the universities that take part,” adding that non-participation will only serve to disadvantage the universities that are not included. When it came to methodology, he noted that their “plans to review and update our overall methodology are well documented. But it is a process which must involve the entire world and cannot be rushed.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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