12 October 2023

THE Masterclass Webinar “Data Management and Submission”: Tips and Tricks for Your Institutions’ Smooth Participation in Times Higher Education’s World University Ranking and Impact Ranking

Ninnart Ratanasukhon
AUN Programme Officer;

During the journey of Times Higher Education (THE) Masterclass Webinar Series, we have introduced AUN Member Universities and AUN-QA Associate Member Universities to the basics of Times Higher Education Rankings and some tips to internationalisation and reputation building, undeniably key elements in Times Higher Education World University Ranking.

In the grand finale of this masterclass series held on 4 October 2023, we welcomed Mr. Todd Hornal, Director of the Asia Pacific Region, who came to share with AUN Member Universities and AUN-QA Associate Member Universities useful tips and tricks in data management and submission for Times Higher Education World University Ranking and Impact Ranking. Garnering the attendance of over 150 participants, this webinar provided a perfect opportunity for universities  to start gearing up for the next THE data submission portal open in January next year!

The following encapsulates all the key points highlighted throughout the event.

Fulfilling Submission Eligibility Requirements
Mr. Todd began his session by first recapping briefly what kind of data THE uses in conducting World University Ranking and Impact Ranking.

For universities that wish to be included in THE World University Ranking, three eligibility requirements must be fulfilled by universities:

  1. The universities must have published at least 1,000 publications over the five years period with at least 150 publications per year (according to the Scopus’ database)
  2. The universities must provide teaching at the undergraduate level
  3. The universities must provide teaching across multiple disciplines

Mr. Todd emphasised that universities are still welcome to submit their intention and data for THE World Universities Ranking even though they are yet to fulfil all three requirements. Such universities will be considered ‘reporting universities,’ and the data they have submitted will be used in their ranking once they fulfil all requirements.

Universities that fulfil all three eligibility requirements will be ranked using three types of data:

  • University performance data (submitted by universities)
  • Reputation data (collected by Times Higher Education through an annual survey)
  • Bibliometric data (collected by Times Higher Education through Elsevier)

In the second Masterclass webinar, Ms. Mei Mei Lim, Director of Consultancy, already introduced AUN Member Universities and Associate Member Universities to some good practices for building reputation and enhancing internationalisation for better reputation data.

In this webinar, it’s now all about the university performance data, the data that will be submitted by universities themselves.

This type of data includes quantitative data of universities such as the size of the student body, the number of international students, the number of academic staff, and more. 

Clear & Proactive Communication is Essential
To ensure the smooth submission of performance data, first, a clear communication channel between universities and THE is needed. THE requests universities to nominate a data provider and a data approver for the submission and the approval of data.

The data provider and the data approver will serve as the main contact point between THE and universities for any additional concerns such as a request for additional data or an inquiry regarding the gap or the clarification of data. Universities may nominate more than one person to be the data provider and the data approver.

In general, THE World University Ranking’s portal for data submission is  open in early January of each year, with THE notifying participating universities two months prior to the opening of the data submission portal.Once the data collection process is commenced, universities will go through four stages of data submission:

  • General information about your institution
  • Data on your institution
  • Notes to provide additional context about the data you are providing
  • Review, print, and submit your data

According to Mr. Todd,  it is highly recommended for universities to go through the definitions of each type of data thoroughly before data submission, as some types of data may have different definitions compared to other ranking systems or other THE rankings (such as Impact Ranking). In case of any questions, THE is more than welcome to clarify and answer any inquiries from participating universities. If the universities are undergoing major changes, such as mergers or institutional changes, Mr. Todd urged universities to notify THE about this change as well.

Special Note on THE Impact Ranking
For universities that wish to participate in THE Impact Ranking, the newest ranking introduced by THE to assess universities based on their pursuit of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mr. Todd highlighted that universities must select all SDGs they wish to participate in before proceeding to submit their data. Universities are not required to participate in the ranking of all SDGs but must participate in at least four SDGs, with one being SDG 17, to be ranked in the overall Impact Ranking. No further participation threshold is imposed for participation in THE Impact Ranking.

As data required for THE Impact Ranking may have different definitions compared to other systems of ranking or other THE rankings, universities are encouraged to study the definition of data required as much as possible.

For example,it is important to note that THE Impact Ranking also takes into consideration universities’ policies to drive sustainability efforts on campusTHE requests that universities specify specific date ranges of the policies they have submitted and provide evidence data that correlates with the policies’ date range. In this scenario, precision is crucial for universities to participate smoothly in the process. 

Some Data Formats are More Preferable to Others
Apart from taking into consideration necessary preparation to meet eligibility requirements and effective communication, universities may also need to be mindful of the formats of the data lined up for the submission as some may result in better reception by THE than others.

Referring back to Mr. Todd’s presentation, URLs are a preferred format when the data is submitted. THE asks universities that the URLs are not too generic and do not lead only to the landing page of the universities or the programmes’ website. Relevant data should be clearly indicated where it is on the page. When data is submitted in PDF format, the PDF must be annotated or marked for relevant parts, with additional relevant context such as language variants of specific terms and definitions as well.

Universities can submit only the two best pieces of evidence for consideration. If THE finds sufficient evidence in the first piece of evidence, THE will not look at the second piece.

Evidence that is accessible to the public will receive extra credits.

Extra Tricks and Tips
Mr. Todd also provided participants with extra advice from globally leading institutions such as Lydia Snover, Director of Institutional Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. Jingwen Mu from the University of Auckland.

Ms. Lydia Snover’s advice in managing and submitting data for THE Rankings includes:

  1. Have one office that is dedicated to collecting and submitting data for rankings. Ideally, one person, rather than a team of people, will do this to ensure the submissions are as accurate and as consistent as possible
  2. Keep a file of all the data the university submits to rankings other sources, such as news organisations or funding agencies, with clear definitions. Make sure all data submissions tie back to the original raw data and that the university can explain any differences
  3. Make sure the data are consistent, and therefore comparable, year-on-year. At MIT, the student population figure in the census is always based on the fifth week count – that is, the number of enrolled students on the first Friday of October
  4. Establish a fixed cycle for the data collection within the institution. If the university is collecting data for the first time, work out what data the university needs, where they can be obtained (which department or ideally which specific member of staff), and when they will be available.
  5. Document all of these details in a briefing book to speed up the process in future years
  6. Start early. MIT starts collating the data to submit to the rankings as soon as the data becomes available. MIT starts at the beginning of the academic year when the census is carried out.

Dr. Jingwen Mu’s advice includes:

  1. The golden rule is to make sure everything that counts is counted for - checking the data definitions carefully.
  2. Avoid making this an onerous administrative task that everyone hates.
  3. It’s more useful to use rankings as a tool to highlight achievements and identify opportunities for improvement. Don’t consider it as a box-ticking admin thing.

Mr. Todd especially highlighted Dr. Jingwen Mu’s mention in his closing remark that ranking is not just a box-ticking administrative task but a useful tool to highlight achievements and identify opportunities for improvement. He emphasised that Times Higher Education Rankings are ‘vehicles’ for universities to pursue their goals, not the goal in itself. In this regard, universities can use the Rankings as a benchmarking tool – akin to a mirror – to identify their strength, their weakness, and how far they  have come in achieving their own mission.

As the Masterclass Webinar Series came to its conclusion, the ASEAN University Network Secretariat would like to extend its sincerest gratitude and appreciation to all three speakers from Times Higher Education, Ms. Julie Wilkens McMahon, Ms. Mei Mei Lim, and Mr. Todd Hornal, who made this Webinar Series possible. The knowledge shared throughout the sessions have provided the AUN Member Universities and AUN-QA Member Universities with strategic tools and useful information into global university rankings. Last but not least, the webinar series emphasised on what universities stand to gain from participating in the rankings – seeing them as much more than an international competition of academic visibility. Rather, university rankings should be approached as a tool that can help reflect universities’ strengths, weaknesses, and potential for future development to achieve their own respective goal. 

Universities  interested in participating in THE Rankings can submit their intention or inquiries to the following emails :
Times Higher Education World University Ranking: [email protected]
Times Higher Education Impact Ranking: [email protected]

Learn more about knowledge sharing highlights from previous THE Masterclass Webinars in the following: