Looking for the right university: How can university ranking systems help?

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So you'd like to study – and preferably at a good university? We have three university ranking systems we would like to present to you: CHE University Ranking, U-Multirank and CTWS Leiden. We will also explain how you can use these assessments to find the university that suits you best.  

People wishing to study, especially abroad, like to check out international university rankings.  The aim of these ranking tables is to facilitate comparisons between the quality of research and teaching at the world's universities.  The most important and influential are the
and the two Anglo-Saxon rankings and .

In addition to these international and more research-oriented rankings, Europe also offers assessment portals that explore new assessment and presentation methods.  These include the German CHE University Ranking, the relatively new European U-Multirank and the Dutch CWTS Leiden Ranking. We will show you what these rankings do differently and how you can find a university that's right for you.

CHE University Ranking

The collects and assesses information about German-language universities, which means it is particularly interesting for students that have already decided on Germany as their place of study. CHE lists groups of universities with similar ratings rather than providing a hierarchical ranking of the “best” universities.

In all, it assesses a total of 300 universities with more than 40 subjects. In addition to facts about the academic faculties and courses, CHE's assessments are also based on the opinions of the 150,000 or more students and 9,000 professors who frequent these institutions. Consequently, it is the school and university students’ interests that form the core of the CHE system.  The information provided is intended to help you choose a course of study and a good university at which to do it.

This means that, first of all, you have to select your own specialist area and the qualification you are aiming for. After that, the user has the option of stating which criteria they consider important for their choice of university. You can choose up to six criteria, including - amongst others – how well the university is equipped (e.g. laboratories), the extent to which research is promoted (say, for doctoral students) or how international the university is, i.e. how many international professors teach there.

A results table displays suitable universities and their rankings for the criteria given. Depending on the criteria chosen, you can see where rental costs are cheap, where first year students are well supported or where the student situation is generally considered good.

This video tells you all about CHE University Ranking (in German only)

This video tells you all about CHE University Ranking (in German only)
This video tells you all about CHE University Ranking (in German only) ©


The European has been assessing universities around the world since 2014, including about 90 German ones.  It allows you to locate specific information about a university or to compare it with others. U-Multirank does not aim to select the best university but to help students find the best university for them personally.

Similar to CHE Ranking, users complete an interactive questionnaire.  First, they select their subject and the qualification they are aiming for. Then they decide what they want of their future university: should it be research-oriented or internationally engaged or should it have ties with companies and other organisations in the region?

U-Multirank's recommendations are based on the data provided by around 1,500 universities – including universities of applied science and art academies – from around 100 countries. The subject rankings are based on 100,000 student assessments.

CWTS Leiden Ranking

The also has an international orientation and ranks more than 900 universities from over 50 countries. This ranking system is geared in particular to researchers, junior scientists and project managers.  The focus is on the universities' academic influence and examines how strongly they are involved in international cooperation.

One of the ways this is done is to measure the frequency with which a university's academic papers are cited. (International) co-authorship or cooperation with industry on the compilation of articles serve as further evidence of the university's close working relations with other, also global, partners.

CWTS Leiden Ranking does not aim to provide a simple ranking table, but a somewhat deeper insight into the services the universities provide. The ranking results are thus presented in three variations: as a ranking table, as a diagram enabling the comparison of two criteria, or distribution on an interactive global map.

CWTS Leiden Ranking 2016: „Moving beyond just ranking“

CWTS Leiden Ranking 2016: „Moving beyond just ranking“
CWTS Leiden Ranking 2016: „Moving beyond just ranking“ ©

Limitations of university ranking

Even if the ranking portals have different priorities and aim to present the university landscape in the most precise terms possible, university rankings are not able to cover all aspects. Individualised suggestions are undoubtedly helpful but they cannot replace your own evaluation and assessment.  And there is no guarantee that your favoured university will actually live up to your expectations.

Related links

German universities figure strongly in the CHE University Ranking. Registered students can compile their own personal ranking using an interactive questionnaire. is available on the website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

More than just a mere ranking table, U-Multirank sets out to provide a differentiated and diverse picture of the international university landscape. It makes for an individualised comparison of universities based on interactive online tools.

The Centre for Science and Technology Studies is based at the Dutch university Leiden. The CWTS Leiden Ranking is geared in particular to researchers and junior scientists.

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