Stress that numbers can be misleading
It’s true that a degree from a top-ranked university is unlikely to harm a student’s employment prospects. That being said, there are certain gaps in the maths you should know about.
The first thing to note is that rankings are all based on a set of strict criteria. Whilst this ensures that the metrics used are consistent - and that each university is evaluated fairly - it does mean that some universities and colleges don’t get included in the rankings at all.
Believe it or not, some of the programmes that get left out are both excellent and very well regarded: they’re usually simply too small, too specialized, or too new to make the cut.
Second, as we’ve already discussed, league tables can be informative when your students are still getting their bearings - but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend relying on rankings if a student is trying to decide between just a handful of institutions.
Because when students are at that crucial stage of narrowing down their options, there are so many more important factors at play. Things like:
- Is the course or choice of potential majors appealing, and something the student wants to study?
- Is the location and host country the right fit?
- Is the course/university affordable?
Let’s say one of your students has decided to apply to a prestigious science and engineering institute in the USA. You have every confidence they're going to write a great admissions essay and they have the academic requirements to be a great fit.
But this student is also considering a small, less-well known university in Germany. The class sizes sound perfect, they’d have access to amazing internship opportunities and the student even follows one of his/her prospective lecturers on social media! Unfortunately, this university barely made the Top 500 this year.
Now, at first, that sounds like a huge difference. But remember that there are over 25000 universities in the world.
So if, when all is said and done, a student who is building their shortlist is still worried about rankings, it’s worth reminding them that anything in the top 500 is still in the global top 2%!
On the rare occasion that a university plummets overnight from a spot in the top 50 into, say, the top 200, then that sudden drop might warrant a closer look.
Apart from that? It’s wise to treat those numbers like ballpark figures, not gospel truth.