Ranking 251—300, what does it really mean?


Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2021 was composed by assessing over 1527 institutions’ data from 93 countries. A random sample of academics fill out a questionnaire, thereby nominating universities in their fields, which they consider to be the best at teaching or research. In the assessment focus was put on five performance indicators:

  1. Teaching – the learning environment and academic staff
  2. Research – volume, income and reputation
  3. Citations – research influence
  4. International outlook – the proportion of international staff, students and research
  5. Industry income – transfer of knowledge that corresponds to the needs of the labour market

The institution’s overall numbers will also be used in the rankings.

The first three play a major role in the final result – teaching, research and citations each makes up 30% of the end result, giving 90% of the final result in total.

The universities can get into the rankings based on seven criteria:

  1. The university has published more than a 1000 relevant publications in the previous five years and at least a 150 pertinent publications per every separate year;
  2. The university has to have comprehensive bachelor’s studies (which is why some reputable universities in the United States of America might be left out of the rankings – in order to get into medical school, the students have to do their relevant bachelor’s studies in another institution);
  3. The university has to have a broad selection of fields of study;
  4. The university has to have shared their general data about the year the rankings are composed about (in the rankings as the category “overall”);
  5. The university can have a value of zero in up to two performance indicators;
  6. The university has to forward data about at least one valid subject;
  7. The university is not allowed to be in the adjusted list of precluded universities. In that list are the institutions who don’t want to be in the rankings or don’t qualify due to other reasons characteristic to the institution.

Cogent indicators

Good indicators are the ratio of academic staff and students, the ratio of academic staff and the academic staff with a PhD and the total number of citations.

The ratio of academic staff and students is a good indicator to assess study quality. The ratio shows the size of the groups in a level of education, which in turn determines the results of the students. Generally the students’ results are better when their education level’s group is small, which means a more individual approach and as a rule better acquired learning outcomes.

The large ratio of academic staff and the academic staff with a PhD points to a qualified teaching staff and higher study quality.

The total number of citations demonstrates the value of the institutions’ research among their global colleagues. A larger amount of citations indicates the prestige of the institution’s research.

Less cogent indicators

The transfer of knowledge that corresponds to the needs of the labour market and the international outlook play a smaller part in the final result. 

The transfer of knowledge that corresponds to the needs of the labour market in the context of the  EU isn’t comparable to other regions of the world. Due to the EU-s open common market, including the job market, this criterion generalizes the institution’s relationship with the European Union, not with the national labour market. This indicator also points more to the labour market than to the quality of tertiary education. If THE could change the effect of the information that derives from the EU’s open common market’s quiddity to be comparable with the indicators of other regions, this indicator might develop to become an interesting gauge for the current and potential students of the universities.

The proportion of international outlook varies too much due to the differences of the country and the university. The proportion of foreign students and teaching staff depends both on the country’s immigration policy and the capacity of the jobs and English curricula created by the university. The institution’s popularity among international students and workers also plays a role, but it’s in turn influenced by very different circumstances.

What does it mean to be in the range of 251-300?

OverallTeachingReasearchCitationsIndustry incomeInternational outlook

The University of Tartu has achieved a great result, especially in the total amount of citations and that the research of the University of Tartu is valued by other scientists. A high result in the total amount of citations also shows that the research of the University of Tartu is necessary and useful to other universities to conduct research as well. The weight of the total amount of citations from all the indicators is 30%, therefore encouraging raising the total amount of citations could definitely be one of the focus points that could help the University of Tartu rise to a higher spot in the rankings in the future.