Rankings for Universities

In international rankings all 13 traditional universiteiten are among the 100 best in each of their respective strongest disciplines. This is an exceptional result!

First we are going to give an overview on how the Dutch universities rank and you can find links to the ranking results of each university. Then we will give pointers on how to use the rankings for your study choice. Furthermore we will explain how the rankings work and how they are made.

If you would like to study at a university of applied sciences you will not find any information here: unfortunately international rankings only take universities into account.

1. How do the Dutch unis rank?

According to the so-called Shanghai Ranking "ARWU 2012" 92% of all Dutch universities are among the 50 best worldwide. For comparison purposes: Among the German universities only about a third (32%) reached this status. The criteria of this ranking focus especially on research performance.

The Dutch universities are even more prominent in the "QS World University Ranking (WUR)". 10% of German universities are counted among the 200 best worldwide whereas for the Dutch it is 92%. WUR is an Anglo-Saxon ranking which factors in education more than ARWU.

These results are also impressive because many German universities have high admission restrictions (NC) whereas this is rarely the case in the Netherlands.

Here you can find the results of each university.

2. Do rankings help with the study choice?

University rankings make statements about the quality of research and education at universities. But who makes these rankings and which criteria are used? Which methods?

  • Most rankings evaluate the overall university but differentiate between faculties or departments. This is important – because a university that is the best in one field can flop in another.
  • Universities have two main tasks: Research and education. When you are looking for a study programme the quality of the education and the study is usually more important to you than the research. So you should pay attention if and how the education and study quality factor into the rankings.
  • Universities of applied sciences are rarely considered in rankings. If you are interested in studying at a UAS you can skip the rankings topic.

In short: How important are rankings for the study choice? They can be for PhD and Master students. For high school graduates who are looking for a Bachelor study they give additional information or a reference point at most.

3. How do rankings work?

Rankings are very diverse. This is why it is important to at least gain a small insight in the assessment criteria and procedures.

  • Rankings are usually conducted annually.
  • Most rankings assess the overall university but it is also possible to differentiate between faculties as well as global regions.
  • In some rankings you can arrange a selection of assessment criteria yourself.
  • The survey methods can vary. These include: Evaluation of university statistics; bibliometric evaluation of scientific databases. Surveys of researchers or employers are rarely among them. Surveys of students are only conducted by CHE.

4. Which rankings are there?

Here you can get an overview of the most important rankings.

Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking

This ranking belongs to the publisher of the British magazine of the same name. Researchers are surveyed, university statistics evaluated, bibliometric analyses conducted. 13 criteria are summarized for five areas and influence the overall ranking with varying severity:

  • Education (30%)
  • Research (30%)
  • Frequency of citations (30%)
  • Internationality (7.5%)
  • Knowledge transfer/economic influence (2.5%)

QS World University Ranking

The QS ranking is aimed at prospective students. The company QS operates in the field of education/studying abroad. Four areas are assessed in the QS ranking: Research, education, labour market success, internationality.

  • Academic reputation – university’s reputation among researchers (40%)
  • Reputation of graduates among employers (10%)
  • Number of students per research assistant (20%)
  • Frequency of citations (20%)
  • Number of international research assistants (5%)
  • Number of international students (5%)

ARWU (Shanghai Ranking)

The Shanghai ranking has been conducted by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University since 2003. Six indicators are taken into account, but the emphasis is on research.

  • Number of alumni with Nobel Prize or Fields Medal (Indicator for quality of education) (10%)
  • Researchers with Nobel Prize or Fields Medal (Indicator for quality of personnel) (20%)
  • Frequently cited researchers in 21 subjects of study (Indicator for quality of personnel) (20%)
  • Published articles in the magazine “Nature & Science” (USA) (Research performance) (20%)
  • Published articles in “Web of Science” (USA) (Research performance) (20%)
  • Size of the institution (10%)

CHE Hochschulranking

This ranking, which is likely the most well-known in Germany, is unlike the others. It does not compare universities but the study programmes. It is restricted to German universities and universities of applied sciences. Its purpose is not to find the best university but instead aims to help prospective students with finding the right university for them.

This is the only ranking where students are surveyed as well. Furthermore, professors, faculties and university administrations are included. There is no ranking list; instead there are colorful points distributed over a chart which help make the strengths and weaknesses of a study programme discernible. Users of the ranking can combine and vary the criteria according to their individual wishes. There are 37 assessment criteria which are ordered as follows:

  • Labour market and job relevance
  • Facilities
  • Research
  • International orientation
  • Study result
  • Place of study and university
  • Students
  • Academics and teaching


Since 2013 there has been a new ranking on the initiative of the European Union. The Dutch universities Twente and Leiden as well as the German CHE are involved in the consortium. In 2014 approx. 850 universities from all over the world registered for participation. In 2016 the number has grown to 1300. The universities are ranked based on five categories:

  • Reputation of the research
  • Quality of teaching and learning environment
  • International orientation
  • Performance at the knowledge transfer
  • Regional engagement

We take a great interest in the further development of this young European ranking.