University rankings assist in making the right decision
Choosing a university and, more importantly, a field of study that can bring about desired outcomes in one’s life, are among the most daunting yet important steps for a school-leaver to take. The support of parents only goes so far; after all, any parent’s wish is for their child’s academic path to be fruitful, well-informed and as objective as possible.
Choosing a university and field of study, therefore, can be one of the most important of life decisions. In addition to determining how an undergraduate will spend the next three to four years immediately after they have come of age, it largely defines their career path for the rest of their life.
Making that decision with the island’s own offerings in mind, the path becomes clearer. Higher education has made huge leaps in recent years, with local universities being not only worthy options for Cypriots, but for international students, too.
Notably, Cyprus’ tertiary education’s rapid growth has attracted the attention of international ranking organisations, which evaluate, compare and rank the world’s top universities, with prospective students from around the world using these rankings to orient themselves toward successful courses of study.
Having Cypriot universities included in these rankings automatically places them on the map, enabling local and international students, with the support of their parents, to use them as a tool to compare Cypriot universities between themselves, to Greek universities, as well as to leading universities worldwide. What is important is truly to understand what the rankings stand for, and how universities around the globe are being ranked for the work they do.
Given that these rankings are a relatively new development, and the public’s awareness about how they function is limited, their importance can be somewhat confusing. Over recent years, in referring to their ranking achievements in PR campaigns, local universities have tended to send a message that all such institutions are ranked for the same reasons. But this is not the case. Questions such as: “What types of university rankings exist?”, “What are the main university rankings?”, “Which specific category is the university I’m interested in ranked for? “, “Are there rankings that should be given more or less weight when choosing a university?” all need to be addressed. Having a university announce that they have been included in the world’s most popular ranking mechanism isn’t enough: looking deeper into what they have been ranked for, and why, are the keys to making best use of the rankings.
It’s important to note that, since university rankings are based on specific criteria and metrics that provide an objective and comparative assessment of the quality and performance of universities, rankings provide information on the quality of teaching, research, impact on society, international outlook and other performance indicators. In turn, this allows students, researchers and employers to compare and choose the universities best suited to their needs. For example, this year, we see the largest Cypriot universities appear in internationally-recognised rankings: the University of Cyprus (UCY) has been named among the top 401-500 universities in the world, the University of Nicosia (UNIC) among the top 501-600, and the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) among the top 601-800 universities.
On the another hand, rankings also promote healthy competition between universities as they strive to improve their performance, which in turn stimulates progress and innovation in education and research. It’s interesting to note that, when it comes to ranking universities for their disciplines, in comparing Cyprus and Greece, local HEIs ranked first in both countries for certain subjects, and notably tied with some of Greece’s well-established institutions for others. For example, in terms of Social Sciences, this year, CUT ranked first in both Cyprus and Greece in The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, while UCY ranked first for Arts and Humanities in both Cyprus and Greece in The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, together with the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Overall, one must know that university rankings are divided into three categories: those that evaluate universities based on their overall quality and rank them against the best in the world; those that evaluate universities for their performance in individual academic subjects (Economics, Mathematics, Psychology, etc.) and rank them in comparison with the corresponding performance of the best universities in the world; those that evaluate universities based on their contribution to society, as opposed to academic prestige.
This categorisation reveals that rankings falling into the first category, such as the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) or Shanghai Rankings, to name a few, are more significant, seeing as they provide an objective and reliable assessment of the overall quality of education provided by a university, vis-à-vis the overall quality of education provided by the best universities in the world. Rankings falling into the second category, such as the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings By Subject, are also important, as they provide an objective and reliable assessment of the quality of education provided by a university in individual academic subjects.
Some of Cyprus’ largest universities, including UNIC, have been included in the 2023 university rankings for both categories, providing a key analytical tool to prospective students, given that they offer an objective picture of what to expect from the university of their choice. Used correctly, these rankings provide the basis for prospective undergrads to conduct comprehensive, multi-level research in choosing their ideal university.
In terms of the numbers, the positions of the largest Cypriot universities in the 2023 university rankings speak for themselves. UCY took the lead locally, coming in at 401-600 in the World University Rankings, while it ranked 53rd in the QS World University Rankings (regional ranking EECA), alongside UNIC, which ranked 501-600 in the World University Rankings, and 136th in the QS World University Rankings (regional ranking EECA). Not far behind was CUT, ranking 601-800 in the World University Rankings, while ranking 102nd in the QS World University Rankings (regional ranking EECA). The European University of Cyprus (EUC) didn’t rank in the world University Rankings, but did appear in the QS World University Rankings (regional ranking EECA), coming in at 211-220. Frederick University didn’t feature in any rankings this year.
The most popular university ranking mechanism is the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which also ranks universities according to their academic disciplines. These shine a light on five such disciplines, giving one the chance to assess the performance and reputation of universities in specific subject areas.
With regards to local universities, and to convey a rough idea of 2023’s ranking list, UNIC ranked first in Cyprus, first in Cyprus and Greece, 35th in Europe and 151-175 in the world for Business and Economics. Both UCY and UNIC ranked first in Cyprus, first in Cyprus and Greece, 40th in Europe and among 176-200 universities in the world for Education, while CUT ranked first in Cyprus, first in Cyprus and Greece, 78th in Europe and 301-400 in the world for Social Sciences. These are only a handful of selected rankings from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Their full reports shed further light on both local and international standards. What’s clear is that, when used correctly, they provide the basis for conducting comprehensive, multi-dimensional research in choosing the ideal university for every prospective undergrad.