A university’s rank is calculated according to a set of six criteria: academic reputation, employer reputation (how valuable potential employers perceive a degree from the university to be), faculty to student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio (how many faculty members are taken from abroad), and international students ratio*. The University of Auckland received favourable scores for its academic reputation, international faculty ratio and international students ratio, but received average and below average scores in the other categories*. It was awarded an overall score of 62.8.
Particularly noticeable was the score given for the university’s faculty-to-student ratio: 21.3. This score places the University of Auckland 616th in the category (of the 720 universities who have had their data collected), just behind Turkey’s Bilkent University. QS did not release the reasoning behind the low score, but it is likely that it was driven by the university’s decision to phase out roughly 40 faculty jobs last year – a decision which would have increased the number of students per faculty member.
The University of Auckland’s dip on the QS rankings was not entirely unexpected: in September last year the university fell outside of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings top 200. Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon responded to the fall (which marked the first time the University of Auckland had not appeared on the top 200 list since it began in 2004) in an article published on the university’s website. McCutcheon said the University of Auckland’s “performance [had] increased year on year”, and that the fall was primarily due to “government policy [which forced the university] to operate with some of the lowest levels of income per student in the developed world”. McCutcheon also warned that the university was likely to fall even further until “New Zealand governments … stop[ped] investing in lowering the cost of education and instead invest[ed] in raising quality and the rankings of … universities”.
The THE rankings are based on similar criteria to those used by QS. They include teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook**. The University of Auckland was given favourable scores for its international outlook and citations, but received average scores for industry income and research. Teaching was the university’s weakest category, where it received a score of 30.1. Again, THE did not release a justification for its ranking, but the criteria explanation on the website indicates that the score for teaching is based on a combination of student to staff ratio, surveys, doctorates-to-bachelors ratio, and the ratio of staff who have been awarded a doctorate.
* Scores: 82.7, 59.4, 21.3, 52.3, 87, and 91.3 respectively. Weighting between criteria is not equal.
** Scores: 30.1, 40.7, 76.5, 61.6, 91.7 respectively. Weighting between criteria is not equal.