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Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Internationalisation, highlights the importance of the world rankings reputational survey and what staff can do to help raise awareness of our high-quality academic work around the world. 

We are a world-class university, but our world rankings don’t reflect this yet. We are ranked outside the Top 150 in the two key rankings: the QS and Times Higher Education. When we look at the ‘hard metrics’ – such things as our research quality and teaching performance, we do well, but the perception of how good we are does not match this reality. This seems unfair but it is also our responsibility to change this. 

We also know that most other universities – particularly international universities - are watching the rankings very closely and working very hard to make sure that their world ranking reflects their true quality. We must do the same. 

The QS World Ranking is the ranking we focus on at this time of year because they begin to survey university staff around the world and ask them what subjects they believe Newcastle University is world-leading in terms of its research and teaching. It’s their annual reputation survey and it accounts for a massive 40% of the overall world ranking. In some subject areas like English and Architecture, the academic reputation can account for over 70% of the subject ranking.

We know that our reputation is the element of the world rankings we’ve done least well. Not on the hard metrics, we know that our citations are good, we know that our work is highly respected, but the area where we fall down is that people aren’t aware of us and are not ‘voting’ for us. This is the area we need to improve. Currently, we are 161 in the QS World Ranking and we have been gradually improving this position over the last three years, thanks to the support of lots of people across the University, but of course we could do more.

Before the QS issue their Academic Reputation Survey, they ask all universities to submit to them a list of academics they collaborate with in order that they can be sampled as part of the survey. This is a legitimate part of their methodology and every year we can submit up to 400 names of academics who we work with in other universities who would be happy to be included in our submission to the QS.

You should have received an email from your Head of School or Head of Institute, which simply asks you to forward an email to at least three academic colleagues outside of our university so that the QS can contact them. It takes a few minutes as I found when sending it to former PhD students of mine who are now academics in their own right. 

We’re doing this as a courtesy, so when the QS contacts these individuals, it’s not out of the blue; we’ve sought their permission and they’ve agreed to do it. The academic overseas, or wherever they happen to be, will click on a link, that link comes back to our University to let us know they are fine with it. And that’s exactly what we’re asking colleagues to do right now. 

We have to provide our list of academic names to the QS by 2nd February. Many colleagues have already contacted their collaborators and we have a list of 170 contacts who are happy to be included in our submission. But we are quite a way off the 400 names we are able to provide and so I would be grateful if you could approach your academic colleagues in the next week or so.

If you would, like to know more, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Internationalisation


published on: 9th January 2018


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