A university’s position in world rankings is more important than the quality of teaching it offers if graduates want to find work, say the majority of students. QS World University Rankings (QS-WUR) – an annual publication of university rankings – carried-out a survey with 519 students – mainly postgraduates – from countries across Europe, including the UK.
62 per cent of those interviewed said it was important for an institution to be internationally known in order to improve their employment prospects post-graduation.
And, if students were to compile their own rankings, 33 per cent said they would put more emphasis on employability while 20 per cent said they would focus on the quality of teaching.
Eager to improve their own job prospects, one student from Paris, Rachida, said: “I would want to know names of the firms where graduates go on to work” while another from Milan, Jacubo added: “Universities often have banners of their most prominent professors; what they should have however is banners of their most prominent alumni.”
One US student told the survey: “The name is really the most important, because then you have it on your CV” while another, Italian PhD applicant Lorenzo, admitted: “Whilst I agree that program is key, if I got an offer from Harvard, I would go there no matter what.”
On the whole, though, the survey found very few students actually take time to consult the methodology behind university rankings – which can result in confusion. Master’s applicant, Valerio, said: “The same university is fourth in one ranking and very different in another ranking. So I don’t know which one is the right one.”
However, time taken to interpret rankings detracts from their appeal as a time-saving device, with fellow Italian applicant, Francesco, adding: “It takes a lot of time to understand exactly what the rankings are telling you and how to manipulate these results. I will waste time.”
Here, the challenge for rankings providers is to increase transparency and make top-level results easy and quick to unpack, the final report recommends, adding: “For universities, this is further confirmation of the importance of employment outcomes for today’s students, with implications for both service provision and marketing messages.”