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University rank/stature - How much does it affect one’s career post-Ph.D?

Do rankings of universities matter while pursuing research or should I be more concerned about finding a suitable supervisor irrespective of the university or institute rankings?

  • 4
    See my answer to a related question
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 16:45
  • 1
    I'd strongly endorse JeffE's answer he linked to above. You can find excellent supervisors at some lower-ranked universities, but you typically won't have nearly as strong a cohort of fellow students. (There are far more student positions than faculty positions, so the strongest faculty get spread out over more schools.) You'll spend a lot of time talking and working with your peers, so this makes a big difference. Rankings don't predict this perfectly, but they are highly correlated with it, and these peer effects matter more than the university name on your diploma. Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


I think the importance you have to attach to this criterion (university ranking) when finding a new research job (from your question, it appears to be a PhD) is limited, because:

  • What counts if our research output: your results, and how you communicate them to your community. You want people in your field to recognize you as someone who can tackle difficult problems and design creative and efficient solutions.
  • Of course, your research may not be so stellar that everyone has heard of you. So, coming from a well-known group with a proven track record is important. You want your research group to be famous, because it reflect well on you.
  • But it's not that simple… not all group leaders are superstars! Failing that, it is better to be affiliated with a well-known department (or university). You want to be in a university/department that people think is good.
  • But not all people know all universities well enough to be able to judge them. Those who don't rely on externally published rankings.

See how rankings are introduced only as item #4 in the above list. Thus, even considering only the career advancement side of your question, university ranking is not a primary concern. Sure, it plays a role, but lots of students overestimate that role compared to, say, the importance of your own work and results.


In terms of employers, you will face two types of them:

  • One is interested in only good universities and will make it as a negative point if your university ranking is not that good. Usually those know nothing about your research. It is also subjective and vague for what is a good university ranking? is there any threshold to specify good and bad rankings?. Things are not clear here.

  • Another type of employers (specially in academia/research positions) they admire your research (if you did good research) and have zero weight on where you come from.

The bottom line here is: if you see your supervisor is going to help you to be better researcher (and thus publish in good journal/conferences) then why not?
There are plenty of good professors affiliated with not-so-good university ranking.

If you could make the two (good university ranking + good supervisor) then this is the perfect solution.

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