How to compare universities
When researching universities, you can’t help but compare and that’s a great way to find what’s right for you. By considering the pros and cons of each institution you are interested in, you will gradually discover what matters to you most. For example, has the university heavily invested in sports facilities or do they provide work placements and study abroad options?
You need to think about what matters most to you. Perhaps you have several universities in mind, but you just can’t decide between them? Comparing universities can make this process a lot easier. So, we’ve got a few ways to compare universities to help you create your shortlist and get applying.
A quick and popular way to compare universities is by looking at league tables. There are many kinds of tables, both international and regional. A league table is essentially a list of universities ranked by scores based on different criteria such as research, teaching, impact, staff to student ratio, international outlook, and employment prospects. Each of these measurements is then assigned a percentage, contributing to the university’s overall score.
Here are a few examples of well-known rankings for international students:
- Times Higher Education World University Rankings
- QS World University Rankings
- U.S. News & World Report
- The Guardian League Table (UK)
- Complete University Guide (UK)
- Shanghai Ranking
It is recommended that you refer to more than one league table when deciding as the rankings can have different results based on the criteria they have chosen. For example, The Guardian League Table focuses mainly on student satisfaction with teaching and assessment.
Whereas, the QS World University Rankings favour university research and reputation. So, it’s worth taking a look at the selection criteria/methodology for each league table that you use to make sure you know how the universities have been ranked.
Also, some universities may not perform as highly in league tables but do have strengths in other areas that are more important to you. It can be easy to get caught up in league tables but remember that the difference between a few ranking positions is not necessarily a reason to remove an institution from your shortlist. Think about what it is you want from a university and use league tables as a starting point.
Subject league tables
Another way to assess universities is by looking at league tables based on rankings by subject. This is a more focused approach to generic league tables which may not reflect the university’s strengths in certain disciplines. You can start to compare universities based on your subject of interest which will help you filter down your options and discover the top-performing institutions for your field.
The majority of league tables have a filtering option where you can choose a subject to sort the tables according to the field you want. So, if you are interested in studying medicine, you can find out which universities rank highly for this subject around the world. This might also be a great way of deciding which country you want to study in.
Common measures for subject rankings include student satisfaction, research quality, graduate prospects, entry standards and degree completion.
Checking the admission requirements for universities is a useful sorting method, as it will help you to sift through institutions based on your grade expectations. This is an important consideration when comparing and deciding on universities, as your qualifications should closely match the requirements to be accepted. These can vary according to each institution so you should either visit university websites directly or use our course matcher tool to find out which universities would accept you with your qualifications.
For example, world-leading institutions like the University of Oxford, Harvard and Stanford University have notoriously high entry requirements. So, while these institutions may be desirable, you need to make sure you have the required results. It’s important to be realistic. If your predicted grades are lower than the university’s entry requirements, it is unlikely that you will be accepted unless, in the case of the UK, they offer places through clearing.
The cost of university is a hot topic for international students and understandably so. Tuition fees can be high and so it’s important that you can afford your studies. The fees can vary according to each institution so comparing the costs is an effective way to rule out and prioritise universities.
To do this, you can search for a course on our site to find out the cost of tuition per year for each programme. This information is provided by the universities themselves and you can also access their websites directly.
You could also choose to compare the cost of living in different countries. For example, destinations like Japan, Australia and Singapore are known for being more expensive than other places. So, you want to make sure that you can afford to live fully and enjoy yourself outside of your studies.
This is a big factor for international students as there are plenty of universities and desirable locations to choose from for your studies. But how do you decide? While the reputation of the university and teaching quality are valuable measures, you should also consider what type of environment you want to live in.
Think about what it is you want to gain from your time abroad. Do you want good weather? Affordability? Proximity to home? These should all be considered when deciding on a university. Luckily, we have heaps of information and advice for choosing a study destination, from finding the right student lifestyle to interviews with students to the world’s most sustainable universities. We’re here to help you narrow down your search with in-depth city guides, university rankings, and career-focused guides for specific destinations.
Finally, make sure you compare the course modules across universities. These can and do vary depending on the curriculum of each department. For example, a bachelor of arts in psychology allows for more flexibility with optional modules and less focus on maths and science in comparison to the bachelor of science in psychology.
This is an important factor to consider so that you know exactly what to expect from your course. Overall, don’t assume universities will offer the same course content as they can construct their modules according to their strengths and specialisations.
So, now you know where to start with comparing universities to make the best possible decision. Make sure to use the resources we provided to help kickstart your research.