I work at a university that gives a small number of scholarships to PhD students to pay their fees and tuition. Currently, the decision for who to give these to is based on their undergraduate transcript and the global ranking of the university they attended as an undergraduate. If you don't get a scholarship, you have to pay full fees and tuition.

Unfortunately, one consequence of this system is that graduates from certain countries, for example India, are grossly disadvantaged. The highest ranked Indian university is ranked below 250 in the main international tables (and below 400 in Excellence at http://www.webometrics.info/en/Asia/India?sort=asc&order=Excellence%20Rank*) . As far as I can tell, this is mostly because the ranking measures research output and many of the top Indian students go on to graduate school in the US.

Now we can all say how ridiculous it is to be doing this in the first place but that isn't going be helpful. I feel that in order to help address this question I need to give them an easy alternative.

Are there any more relevant league tables that might measure the quality of graduates on a fairer global basis, rather than the quality of research output from the relevant department?

  • How would you measure the quality of graduates worldwide in a standardized way that is unrelated to research?
    – Bitwise
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 2:59
  • 1
    @Bitwise I suppose some options are by a) reputation as given by experts b) historical data on how well graduates do later c) some sort of adjusted figure that includes research but takes into account national differences such as the one I mention in my question d) something I haven't thought of ... :)
    – Simd
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 7:39
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    I doubt there are any global rankings that will rank Indian universities much higher (it also doesn't help that most rankings are done by Western organizations). I think your best chance is to argue that it is more fair to use national or regional rankings instead of global ones.
    – Kimball
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 10:12
  • Of course even better would be if MIT leaked their internal system for judging applicants to their PhD programs ...:)
    – Simd
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 20:08
  • 1
    @eleanora there isn't a single MIT system, but in my experience it involves sitting around a table arguing and hemming and hawing.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


It is not clear what rankings your university uses or what you think is a fairer ranking. The QS World University Rankings ranks on:

Academic reputation (40%)

Employer reputation (10%)

Student-to-faculty ratio (20%)

Citations per faculty (20%)

International faculty ratio (5%)

International student ratio (5%)

I would think that "research output", whatever that is, would impact both academic reputation and citations per faculty. I am not sure if any of the other factors are fairer for judging academic success, but the nice thing about the QS rankings is you can sort based on any of their factors.

If we look at a couple of the IITs

                 Overall     Academic     Employer     SFR     CPF     IFR     ISR
IIT Bombay         222         160          60         400+    301     400+    400+
IIT Delhi          235         199          90         393     329     400+    400+
IIT Kanpur         300         229          229        400+    345     400+    400+

Despite any impact of loss of PhD students to international schools, the "Academic Reputation" is still helping the ranking. The Citations per Faculty are hurting them a little, but they are most hurt by a lack of international draw at the faculty and student levels and a high Student to Faculty ratio.

  • This is a very nice answer thank you. Do you, or anyone here, know how in practice leading US universities judge applicants for grad school from outside the US?
    – Simd
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 20:09

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