University rankings factsheets

Publication Details

The latest performance of New Zealand universities in international rankings.

Author(s): Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, Ministry of Education

Date Published: September 2019

The performance of New Zealand universities in international rankings

A collation of the latest results in four of the most closely followed rankings.

On this page, we present the latest results for New Zealand universities in four of the most closely followed rankings systems. These factsheets will be updated after the release of the latest rankings results.


International university rankings are now an established part of the higher education landscape, with considerable attention placed on them when they are published. In particular, the rankings generate considerable media interest and increasingly feature in debates about the international education market and public policy making.

Until recently, the most prominent rankings systems were the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). In recent years the QS and ARWU have been joined by a third: the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings. There have also been offshoots of these rankings, with subject-level and newer university rankings appearing.

International university rankings are important because they attract interest – they are important because people think they are important. They are also one of the only ways people can access information on the relative performance of individual universities from different countries. And because they provide a shorthand view of performance, they may be an influence on student flows and, possibly, flows of contestable funding. While there may be doubts about their intrinsic value, most countries and most universities now at least monitor the rankings.

General criticisms of university rankings

There are some general criticisms of the rankings we examine. A key criticism is that weightings applied to individual components used to generate the final rankings are arbitrary. Other rankings, such as the Leiden rankings, only publish performance measures individually and do not attempt to produce an overall weighted ranking.

Also, the QS and THE rankings rely on surveys of academics and employers. These surveys have been criticised as measuring perceptions rather than actual performance. For example, the University of Melbourne suggested that overseas media exposure of planned funding cuts to universities in Australia impacted on its academic reputation survey score and led to a fall in its ranking.

The methodology of the QS and THE is thought to favour English language universities over other universities, in part because of their emphasis on recruiting international students.

Outside of the top 50 universities, differences in the overall scores of the listed universities used to rank them tend to be small. So even a small change in overall score may result in a larger change in ranking than for universities more highly ranked.

Latest University Rankings

Academic Ranking of World Universities Updated: August 2019

QS World University Rankings Updated: June 2020 

QS World University Rankings by Subject Updated: March 2020

Times Higher Education World University Rankings Updated: September 2019 


  1. Originally published under the Times Higher Education banner, the QS rankings attempted to take a wider view of university performance and included measures to capture reputation and teaching performance in universities. In 2009, THE and QS severed their relationship and THE set up its own rankings while QS continued to publish rankings under its own banner.