Amendments to the citations per faculty' indicator

QS is clearly aware of and responding to some of the criticisms levelled at this indicator. The citations per faculty' indicator has been the subject of some changes in the past few years. A cap on the number of affiliates per paper was placed and initially' set at 10 (in 2015/16) and then, after numerous objections, the cap was differentiated by' field (in 2016/17). The number of citations were also normalised per field during the 2016/17 edition (Huang, 2012; QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited, 2017; Holmes & Siwinski, 2016). In the 2017/18 edition, QS excluded the number of citations accrued in the same year as the published ranking table. In addition, the citation window was extended from five to six years, whilst still retaining a five-year publication window (QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd, 2017). Therefore, for the 2019 edition, QS counted the citations accrued from 2012 to 2016, generated by' papers published from 2012 to 2017 (Griffin et al., 2018). Whilst some of these changes had a significant impact on the stability of the ranking, they seem to have been largely accepted by many academics as methodological improvements.

The QS international students and international staff indicator

To prosper in an increasingly globalised and internationally' mobile environment, truly world-class higher education institutions must continue to foster a commitment to internationalisation and make efforts to integrate the international dimension intokey areas of strategy and operation (Gao, 2015). The QS methodology includes two lightly weighted indicators which require institutions to submit data for the FTE number of staff (5% weighted) and students (5% weighted) holding an overseas nationality (QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd, 2017). Sowter (2015; para 5) points out the merits of including the proportion of international faculty and students as part of the QS methodology:

  • • The ability of an institution to attract, retain and compensate international faculty could be considered a measure of quality. The proportion of international faculty also provides an impression of institutional diversity and, perhaps, its global progressiveness.
  • • The proportion of students from abroad is another factor that provides an impression of diversity and perhaps commitment to international students, and the provision of academic and other support.

The numbers of FTE international staff and students are then taken as a proportion of the respective submitted staff and student FTE’s and the higher the proportion of international staff or students, the higher the scores on these indicators. Therefore, this indicator is rather like the faculty student ratio indicator in that it is entirely based on numbers submitted by the institution. Unfortunately, not all institutions around the world collect, possess or submit accurate data so these indicators are open to abuse and criticism. QS does audit sudden large changes in numbers submitted, and institutions are required to justify any radical changes, but this is both time-consuming and expensive for any HERS and so cannot be regarded as a total solution. However, QS has excluded some universities from their ranking when they have solid evidence of inaccuracies in submitted data, or deliberate attempts to distort peer review survey responses. The media also take a great interest in any data that might appear to be inaccurate, but their analysis is usually very superficial and involves comparisons between numbers submitted for government purposes and numbers submitted to the ranking agencies. Given that submitted data definitions and guidelines differ for each ranking agency and for the various governments around the world, these comparisons are usually completely invalid. A few years ago, following such a comparison by the media probably prompted by a jealous local competitor, a prominent Asian university became the first to voluntarily commission a full external audit of its submitted data by one of the Big Four audit companies who fully upheld the university submission. It is perhaps telling, that at the time of writing, no other university has risked doing the same.

The 2019 version of the QS WUR showed that 259,021 international faculty members were employed within the top 500 universities, which constituted a year-on-year increase of 6.6% when compared with the results of the 2018 edition. Similarly, an increase in the proportion of international students from the 2018 to the 2019 edition was evident, with the top 500 institutions combined having almost 1.2 million international students (Griffin, 2018). At the time of writing, we are in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic and the short- and mediumThe Big Three: broad issues and OS WUR detail 69 term outlook for international travel, and subsequently international student mobility, looks uncertain but most commentators think the long-term upward trend in student mobility will remain. Anowar et al. (2015) suggests that internationalised performance factors should also be considered such as international collaboration between universities or scholars and this aspect has been incorporated into some of its regional rankings by QS with an indicator called ‘international outlook’ which looks at sustainable international research partnerships.

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